Ryan Peters A dev blog

Women Belong In Tech

Women belong in tech.

It’s such an obvious statement. Of course women belong in tech. Who would dare to disagree? And yet, here I am, at around ~7:30am on a Friday, writing about this. I should not be here. My first meeting of the day is not for another 2.5 hours and most of my coworkers are in a different time zone so I should have been able to get a little extra sleep in, but I am unexpectedly awake, and utterly furious.

I have not written a proper blog post in over three years. Originally, when I started this blog, I told myself, “I will write a new post every month this year” over and over, but nothing would ever come out. So after all this time if I’m actually writing about something, you know it’s actually important enough to get me off my ass.

So, women. Why are we talking about women? Because women have to regularly deal with such mountains of absolute disrespect that I’ve never had to face. Because women have to be better than men to even stand a chance in this industry, whether that’s being paid appropriate wages, being taken seriously at work, not being sexually harassed or objectified, or not having obscene double-standards applied to them every which way they go, because they are women. As if being a woman should have anything to do with one’s technical ability. Ada Lovelace, a woman, is commonly considered the world’s first programmer, and yet by and large this largely male-dominated industry fails to honor that legacy daily, by subjecting women to the most heinous and utterly indefensible situations that no person should ever have to deal with.

Women have not been silent about this. For the better part of a century now, you can find countless examples of women recounting their horrible experiences with bosses, coworkers, other men in their industry, and of course, the educational system. It’s not a surprise that only twenty percent of computer science graduates are women, despite women making up the majority of college graduates in general, when you consider just how unfairly treated women are in this space. From my own anecdotal experience, the vast majority of my classes at Purdue University Northwest were pretty evenly split between demographics, except for my computer science courses. Not only were the vast majority of my classmates male, but they exhibited common toxic rhetoric and behavior of the day as much as you could reasonably expect. I’ll even admit, I was occasionally there alongside them, saying things such as, “maybe men are just more predisposed towards these kinds of careers than women,” or even using my education and career choices as a way to feel smugly superior to others (i.e. liberal arts majors).

This was wrong then. I was wrong then. I was also only in my late teens and early twenties. Now, nearing my thirties, I have nothing but disdain for that kind of person and those popular talking points of the day. Still, these injustices persist, even amongst people I would otherwise respect or admire in this industry. You do not have to look far to find the average “tech-bro” figure, you know the kind. Maybe they developed some library or program many years ago that people still use to this day, or maybe they wrote a book or two that people recommend without a second thought. Maybe they founded or currently lead some company, or sit in a prestigious position, regularly giving talks and being an icon in their small corner of the industry. So you follow them online, hoping for more nuggets of wisdom, only to find that they exhibit some unusually regressive politics. On occasion, you might hear them say something small that sits wrong with you, or see some kind of decision they make in a position of authority that upsets you. But you tell yourself, “this person is well respected. People love this person. Surely, I should be giving them the benefit of the doubt, and not cause a scene. I should know my place and leave the experts to it.”

In the midst of this, you might see some people decide they’ve had enough. Maybe they are women, or people of color. Maybe they are white men who are upset on behalf of these marginalized groups. You don’t fully understand it. You have not been in their position, with their life experiences, and you could not possibly imagine the sheer scale of what years of microaggressions and other toxic behaviors will do to your ability to unquestionably tolerate others. All you ever see is maybe “some questionable opinions” at worst. And when these people start cutting ties, or they dare to hold these people accountable, you wonder why people are trying to “cancel” this figure. Surely, we should all just get along, and these rabble-rousers are the true source of the problem, yes? It’s all those people who choose to be upset in the first place who are the problem. Not I, a man who has never lived these lives. A man who has been happily coasting through most of my career, never worrying too much about whether I was being taken seriously, except during perhaps those early months or years when you’re still new. “See,” you say, “it happens to everybody. Women do not have a monopoly on feeling unappreciated in tech.” And so on, and so on, as you begin to rationalize for yourself why it’s totally okay how you are not nearly as angry as these other people.

So, “of course women belong in tech”, you might say. “But…”

This line of thinking, this toxic line of thinking, is exactly the problem and what needs to be addressed if we are ever going to hope for a more equal workplace for women.

We Need To Talk About John

At the risk of making this article sound like it’s exclusively about a single person and a single recent event, I’ve already been tweeting publicly about this so it’s no use pretending that anything else was the inspiration for today’s blog post.

John De Goes is a notable figure in the greater “Scala programming language community”, which is to say he has been around for quite some time, contributing to various projects of much renown, as well as being the co-founder of his own company doing Scala consultancy and development: Ziverge. They help coordinate, among other things, the development of the increasingly notable “ZIO” ecosystem of software libraries, as well as provide their own consultancy services and run conferences.

And as fortune would have it, John has been so kind as to give us all a brilliant demonstration of the sort of issues I’ve outlined above.

I am not going to bore you with paragraph after paragraph about what exactly the entire deal with this person is. Every single minor or major quabble over the years, every disagreement or questionable decision or rivalry. Even if you do not use the Scala programming language, however, you probably know “a John” in your own communities. Nearly every community of sufficient size has at least one notable figure who seems unusually divisive from a distance. Maybe you don’t pay too much attention to fine details. Maybe you just want to grill, for God’s sake. You don’t have time for community drama, and I respect that. There are more important things in life, after all, than wasting every precious moment by obsessing over specific actors in specific communities and their actions. It is not a healthy way to live.

Reader, I tell you: nearly every single thing I have ever learned about people along these lines has been against my will, and likely you might feel the same way about other people who you would much rather forget about. Not that I have been tied down and force-fed any of this, mind. I have had every opportunity to just “log off” and forget about the more problematic occurrences related to this sort of community drama, regardless of who is responsible or otherwise at the center of it. I am burdened with the gift of this knowledge, the understanding of the actions and words of specific people at specific places and times, and life would be so much easier if I could simply forget. If I could solely focus on doing my job, spending time with my family, and worrying about nothing else for the rest of my life.

Sometimes, however, against my desire to be free from this hell, I am brought back in, kicking and screaming, to observe once more the latest controversy related to some person or other, whether that is John or somebody else. Today’s specific situation, is the subject of what I believe are outright sexist comments made against a woman in tech, and the kinds of people who see nothing wrong with that.

The (Relevant) Timeline

To make this as easy to digest as possible I’ll save you from needing an entire college course worth of Scala community history and drama, and we will approach this situation on its own merits. (Though, I am happy to discuss other details privately, or on future occasions, as the need arises.)

In Scala, like many programming languages, there are several companies and organizations that collaborate on community-focused projects such as tooling or core libraries. Scala has a bit of an academic background, including the language’s creator Martin Odersky, who currently heads programming research at EPFL (in English: “Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne”). At EPFL, they have a non-profit center for coordination of the Scala language named the Scala Center. Here, various tools and programs are developed and organized by some extremely well-respected and talented contributors.

I do not have a personal relationship with anybody working at the Scala Center, for the record. Maybe I follow some of them on Twitter, and maybe a couple of them follow me back as mutuals, but we never directly communicate. I’ve only ever observed them from a distance, and perhaps people at my current place-of-business do work with them more frequently (for example, planning conferences and the like). Regardless, I should not have to be familiar with them personally, or professionally, to see the problem with the events I am about to describe.

Similarly, I am not personally or professionally familiar (to the best of my knowledge) with anyone at SoftwareMill, a Scala and Java focused consultancy that provides contractual services for clients such as software development, dev-ops, and so on. SoftwareMill is hosting a conference later this month in Europe called “Scalar Conference”, a place for Scala-focused industry professionals and academics alike to gather, present talks, and socialize.

John De Goes was set to present at Scalar Conf, and in the lead up to the conference he posted a series of tweets critical of Scala Center’s direction and resource allocation. Of note is the fact that Ziverge, his company, sought to sponsor the Scala Center, but they refused this sponsorship for their own private reasons.

Here is where the sexism finally hits: John shares a clip, originally missing context, of the current executive director of the Scala Center having a brief outburst of profanity during a talk. John says the following:

The Scala Center’s internal org chart raises many questions: the Executive Director of the Scala Center has no background in either business or engineering (essential for this job!), and their communication skills have substantial room for improvement.

The audio of the clip is transcribed as follows:

So, whoever it is, I challenge that person to grow some fucking balls and come speak to me. So thank you very much for those who understood, and those little pussies, you are just fucked up.

Following this, Scalar Conf announced that John’s talk will no longer appear, as they felt his recent public activity crossed a line of personal attack that should not be crossed.

Breaking it down

Right. So. Apparently it has to be explained to people exactly what is wrong with what John is doing here, as there are several people both in the replies and quote-tweets to Scalar Conf as well as on John’s twitter timeline who are arguing about this.

Lets break it down, piece by piece, by gradually adding context as necessary.

On Meritocracy

First, we have John questioning this woman’s credentials. As I made clear in the introductory segment, women repeatedly face issues of toxicity in the workplace every day, especially in programming and general tech which is a male-dominated field. Regardless of whether someone is a woman or anything else, I find questioning someone’s credentials to be particularly tactless in most cases. There are situations where I feel it is totally appropriate to question someone’s ability to do their job, but usually you should do not do that sort of thing by looking at their educational or business background, except perhaps if you are hiring. This person is, presumably, well-respected and trusted by her peers, or at least I have zero reason to assume otherwise. She achieved her current position, which is admirable, and absent evidence to the contrary she is likely doing a perfectly fine job at the stated goals of her position, at the very least. Barring, of course, any of the more specific criticisms of the Scala Center that people can leverage against them, which are not themselves personal attacks, but did lead into them.

Reaching back a bit into the sort of toxic dialogue I was exposed to back in college, I distinctly remember there being an increase in hatred towards “diversity hires” or the very idea of it. If a person in any position was not a white straight male, and anybody had any criticisms of their work whatsoever, people would jump to the horrible conclusion of saying this person was only hired “because they are a woman”, or “because they are black” and so on. In tech especially, it is generally assumed, as it is a male dominated field, that the average man knows what they’re doing. Men respect each other and by default they see each other as equals. If a white man in tech is not exactly excelling at his job, he is not ever called a “diversity hire”. He is the “default”. He is the “status quo”. He does not need to be questioned nearly as hard. Hell, the average man would likely have sympathy for someone having difficulties at their job, rather than assuming straight away they are incompetent. A woman, however, has much more to prove. People are inherently skeptical of their abilities and understanding of what’s necessary for the job. Even among women and people of color, these habits are so pervasive that we might not even recognize when we are exercising them, or letting them subconsciously bias us towards certain conclusions.

Is John literally saying she is a diversity hire? Not with words, no. But the sentiment is clear. She is a woman, who is in a position without the “right credentials”, so she is inherently suspect. Ask any woman in tech if they have ever been grilled about their know-how, their credentials, their ability to perform basic tasks any person should be capable of. Even with the “right degrees” or the “right background”, women still do not get taken seriously, and that is even besides the point that the background does not matter one bit. If John were more honest, he would recognize that there are numerous talented and skilled professionals in nearly every field who are either self-taught or pivoted from another career or educational background. He frequently mentors and instructs people lacking those qualifications as well, so on many levels, he should know better.

To judge a person for their background at all in situations as low-stakes as this, is to question whether or not they belong here. It denies the herculean efforts that people of all kinds, particularly women, have to make in order to be even considered for the same sort of roles and positions that the average man is. Recall I said earlier that women have to be even better than the average man in order to be taken seriously. Now consider that, if you are a woman and you are doing everything you possibly can to succeed in this industry, that you will still be questioned as an outsider, as someone who needs to “prove themselves” no matter what.

We have a stylistic preference for men as a society, not based on any good reasoning, but based on institutionalized sexism. A relevant quote:

We live in a sham meritocracy, where we pretend to pick the best person for each job, while simply picking those we prefer: and when the jobs pay well, they are still overwhelming male. Our preferences are based on style rather than substance, so we pick individuals for leadership on the basis of their confidence rather than competence, charisma rather than humility, and narcissism rather than integrity. For every Angela Merkel, there are many Silvio Berlusconis, Jair Bolsonaros, and Donald Trumps. Not just in politics, but also in business, the typical leader is not known for their humility or competence, but arrogance and incompetence.

Is it ever wrong to criticize someone who happens to be a woman? Absolutely not. I probably do it every other day on social media if I had to guess, or would if I couldn’t stop myself by finding better uses of my time. That is not what is at issue here, however. A woman exists in a position where she is trying to make a difference, and that criticism crossed a very clear line that questioned whether or not she belongs in this boys club, by dogwhistling the sort of diversity hire rhetoric you frequently find in hateful right-wing circles. Regardless of whether or not that was the intent, it certainly comes across that way to people who have been paying attention to these sorts of issues for the better part of the past decade.

On Profanity and “Professionalism”

If you follow me on Twitter you might now I fucking swear quite a fucking bit. I’m not afraid of it. I feel it is occasionally quite relevant to certain discussions at hand, and it is a succinct way to express excitement and anger all the same. Even still, there is a time and place for everything, so while you might not swear in church or while conducting an important meeting, that switch might flip in less “professional” settings.

So what exactly is “professionalism” and why does it matter here? John is accusing this woman of being unfit for her job, partially due to this outburst, as it comes across as “unprofessional”. Again, without going too deep into the weeds here, John in particular has a particular affinity for this idea of “professionalism”, even naming one particularly poorly-thought-out “code” after the concept. The general idea behind a lot of John’s public-facing statements and interactions has been to reinforce this idea of being a “professional”, as in, someone who does not give in to “politics” and infighting, slinging insults between parties. He positions himself as trying to best exemplify these ideals, though it would be all too easy to call him a hypocrite on that front (more on that later).

Respectfully to anyone who might be so inclined to be offended by this particular profanity outburst that we are discussing: your feelings here do not matter, and they are besides the point. Trying to tone-police women for a singular outburst of profanity, regardless of context, comes across as if you are judging people (women) for the “crime” of being human and having emotions. You are not her boss. You are not her friend. You do not need to comment. Situations like these are dealt with by the appropriate parties, at the time they occur, and don’t need your input.

It goes without saying that you are not supposed to say those kind of things in a professional setting without good reason. So you might be asking, what is the reason? The continued objectification of women by men who should know better.

The clip that was linked originally did not have context posted, but it was shared before being taken offline for privacy. When faced with the sort of harassment that these situations usually result in, I cannot blame anyone for locking down their accounts to ride out the storm, or removing/making private videos or content that is relevant so it does not receive dozens of hateful comments.

The outburst was in response to a female presenter being told, during this talk, “You are pretty!” by someone anonymous. Here is one attendee of the talk in question who raised concerns that very day, correctly pointing out that, “…[this] may be part of the reason why women don’t feel as welcome in IT as men do…”

(UPDATE: The above paragraph was edited to clarify that another woman, not the now-director of the Scala Center, was the recipient of objectifying remarks. For the record I was not present at the event in question so I have had to slowly piece together information from anecdotes and first-hand witness accounts.)

Now, I know what some of you are thinking: “That comment does not seem so bad”, or, “It is bad but it is not nearly as bad as the outburst that came after”, perhaps. I know why you feel this way. Maybe you are a man who has not had to deal with men cat-calling you, or trying to get their grimy hands all over you and your body by any means necessary. Contrary to what you might have been told as a small child, it is not, actually, always the best idea to say these kind of things to a woman. Women deal with objectification on a daily basis in ways both large and small. Imagine being a grown adult woman, having dealt with creepy relatives, “nice guy” friends who only wanted you for sex but don’t respect when you want to be left alone, sexualizing comments from even the youngest of ages, all continuing into and throughout most of the rest of your life. It can feel like you are treated less like a real, human being with your own thoughts and emotions, and more as an object, something designed to titilate those with no sense of self-control rather than being properly respected.

I am a married man. I love my wife, and I could not imagine my life without her. I can call her beautiful or pretty. I have a consensual relationship with her, and we talk about any of our issues that come up if we ever cross any boundaries. You are not married to random women you see on the street, or in conferences. You are not even in a general relationship with them. And even then, every person has their own boundaries, and their own understanding of what is acceptable behavior towards them. By default, why would you ever assume those comments are okay to make to someone who has not agreed to hear them?

That covers the objectification angle, but for some reason you might be hung up on the choice of colorful language. The thing about language like this is, absent any sort of divine punishment for speaking it, none of it actually matters. People give words meaning and power based on their context, not whether they are inherently good or not. It’s why you can watch movies with actors that curse like a sailor, objectify women, or even speak racial slurs if the story calls for it. It’s such an easy target to focus on the words without focusing on why they were spoken.

It is so tempting to look at this situation in a bottle and think that this woman, who to you might as well have been willed into existence just for this talk if you do not know them or have not grown up with them, is acting “irresponsibly” out of nowhere, that there is no possible context that would make this okay. By refusing to even pretend to understand the source of the frustration, that sometimes a single straw can break a camel’s back after so many years of this, it shows a distinct lack of empathy and understanding.

Also, it was nearly four years ago

Don’t think this has been mentioned by John or almost anybody else, but for the record, this talk occurred on or around October 7, 2019.

John’s comments, by comparison, were made on March 9th, 2023, and today is March 10, 2023, about three and a half years apart.

When we’re talking about the competency of someone to do their job, or to be an effective leader, linking to a single (justified, in my opinion) outburst of profanity from nearly four years ago (which was some time before she got the job) just makes it seem like you are digging for dirt. You are looking for evidence to use in your righteous quest to criticize someone, and not actually holding this against them in any meaningfully honest capacity. Did that outburst affect you? Have you not been able to sleep soundly for four years? Really? (UPDATE: I was able to confirm this was, indeed, before she got the job, and has maintained it without incident for the past 3+ years.)

Lets be reasonable. Who among us has not, at any point in time, ever gotten “unreasonably angry” about some situation? Maybe you cursed at someone. Maybe it was your boss, or your friend, or your family. Being angry is not an unforgivable sin. By contrast, I would argue that refusing to understand why someone would be angry or refusing to apologize if your own anger was unjustified, is actually a problem worth caring about.

Or, perhaps, this is such a small, singular incident, that even if it were a bad look (which it is not) it was so long ago and comes with so many caveats that I would be willing to overlook it on the principle that each person’s character is a rolling average of their continuous actions. If you do something bad once, and never approvingly acknowledge it ever again, for certain kinds of actions that seems like a fair sort of thing to waive. Now, does that mean I have to make nice with everyone who was personally mean to me several years ago? Absolutely not. That is my personal, private decision. Not only was this not directed at John, so he has no right to feel personally offended, but it is also so small in scale and scope that any reasonable person should be able to forgive and look the other way as if it never happened.

Do you want to know what happened the last time I had an outburst in a professional setting? I was in California for an internship. I was thrilled to have the opportunity, being from the midwest, as I could use this to bolster my resume and get a head start on my career. Unfortunately for me, the pay was lousy, and literally the only place I could afford to stay (while dipping into my savings) was an Airbnb with a dozen or so other beds. I slept in a closet all summer, I had to deal with living around over a dozen other people (each of which had their own issues and conflicts), I commuted to work in the hot San Jose sun, and after a while it started getting to me. I became angry. Not just at myself for taking this obviously bad deal of a job, but at the business for ever thinking it was acceptable to offer in the first place.

I had a meeting with the boss of this company, where I laid out my concerns, and how it had affected my mental health, hoping to find some kind of understanding. They threw the entire thing back in my face, at which point I said, and I quote, they were paying me a “fucking starvation wage”. This greatly upset my boss. I’ll never forget how he responded to me, not by defusing the situation but by telling me, “first of all, do not swear at me”. He followed this up with, I kid you not, a book recommendation. I forget what it was called, (something maybe involving the phrase “Yes, sir!”) but looking into it, I felt so offended I was without words. The premise was basically a way to condition you to be uncritically accepting of whatever your boss is giving you. Don’t stand up for yourself, it seemed to say. You are being given an opportunity and you should be thankful! Never mind the fact that $15/hr in the San Francisco Bay Area of all places is literally too poor to afford the most basic accommodations. Never mind the fact that the other intern there was also in a similar living situation as me, so they could have done their due diligence upfront instead of waiting for someone to complain.

When I think of people being overly critical of profanity, acting like it is the most unspeakable sin a person can commit, I think of that old boss. I think of how me swearing at him that one time, on the verge of tears after several days of nervous breakdowns, was more offensive than their terrible business proposition. I think of being told to shut up and take what I was given, because I suppose I “should be thankful I even have a job at all”, and should not complain about the conditions I was forced to live in if I wanted to keep the job.

And when I think of women who complain about their working conditions, or react with hostility towards even the smallest-seeming aggressions, I think of how I felt back then. I took that job because I felt it would help me in my career. How many times have you ever done something you felt uncomfortable with because it would help you in some way? Now imagine that is basically your entire life. You need to deal with your sexist boss, or your sexist coworkers, or your sexist family because it’s for the greater good. You’re not allowed to be upset. You’re not allowed to speak out, to scream, to curse. Because that is not what a “proper lady” would do. Not what an “educated woman” should do. You should know your place. You should only ever be fully professional, and you should expect to take these aggressions on the chin for your entire life, because if you speak up in any capacity, you’ll be judged for it. For causing division. For raising a fuss. For not having an “appropriate tone”.

Think of that the next time you want to so publicly judge someone for something. Think about whether or not you are capable of putting yourself in their shoes and finding common ground. Don’t make this about yourself and about how you, personally, would “not have reacted that way” or some “holier than thou” nonsense. Don’t do it, especially if you’re basically telling a woman to know her place.

Cancel Culture Hypocrisy

I mentioned I’d touch on this, so briefly, John and people like him are frequent critics of “cancel culture”, this idea that society could come to “cancel” you at any moment, for any infraction no matter how small, demanding you lose your job and whatever prestige you may have left, all because of a couple simple mistakes. A small thing that may have happened once or twice, that does not constitute the entirety of your character, and should not be held over your head for eternity no matter how long ago it was.

Sound familiar?

I do not believe that this exists in the capacity these people describe, for a wide variety of reasons, but lets use John as the perfect example of why this concept is nothing but a hot, steaming load.

John has been “cancelled” by his own mentioning or endorsing of opinions expressing this on social media, I want to say, roughly 4-6 times over the past six-ish years, at least, including this one. Each incident usually involved some conference deciding he should no longer be allowed to speak, or him not being welcome within certain private groups in the community, or some person no longer wanting to associate with code or projects related to him or his company. These are private decisions, made by private individuals and the organizations that they make up, and all stem from freedom of association.

Not every country has “freedom of speech” per se, but in most places you absolutely have the right to choose who you associate with. If I decide I no longer like a family member, I am totally free to cut them out of my life. If someone says something horribly offensive that crosses a line, and I run an event that they are invited to, it is within my rights to bar them from that event, for the safety and comfort of the event attendees.

So what is the result of John being “cancelled”? He can no longer attend a few events. He is no longer welcome in some organizations. Some people have independently concluded that they do not want to associate with him. Others do. He is still welcome in other events. He is still welcome in other organizations. He even runs his own. His company, by my understanding, has contracts with some big names. He has several employees who would presumably stand by him even if the moon fell.

That does not sound like being “cancelled” to me.

What does it mean if you can be “cancelled” and still be financially and even socially successful? Still run your own business, still run your own conferences that I assume have reasonable attendance, get enthusiastic employees and customers alike. It’s not like the internet banded together to, say, “take the wife and kids”, metaphorically speaking. Scala is far from a large community, but it is an active one. Everyone kind of knows each other, except the people who don’t need to. I’ve worked with dozens upon dozens of people who either do not care about any of this, or actively support the man. So, what exactly was taken from him that he feels he deserves?

The implication here is that if you are “cancelled” and actually upset about it, it’s solely a frustration about people choosing to disagree with your words and actions. That’s it. If a conference doesn’t want you there, they have made their case. They do not want to associate with you. Are you denying their right to say so? Well, of course not, because John has his own conferences, he has his own company, clients, and so on. If people don’t like you, you have exactly two options:

  • Attempt to convince them otherwise, either by apologizing and demonstrating changes
  • Accept the situation, and continue on with your life

That is not to say he has no right to criticize people who would otherwise criticize him. This happens in all directions, all the time, in every community. It’s a fundamental human right. But he is not being “cancelled” for it. He’s just upset that select groups of people have drawn a line that he is on the other side of.

Oh, yeah, remember when I said this:

Sound familiar?

What exactly is John doing, if not trying to “cancel” someone by his own definition? He is publicly trying to hold someone accountable for actions that occurred in the distant past, actions that many would agree are “not really a big deal” at worst, and he is implicitly stating, through criticizing her position, that she does not deserve (and therefore, should lose) her job.

“Cancel culture” for me, but not for thee, I suppose.

If John were being honest, he would recognize this and admit as much: that he is trying to “cancel” someone. John would have you believe that this is different, and not the same thing at all, however, because this time, it’s justified. This time, it’s not directed at him, but at someone else. Someone who allegedly does not like him. They deserve it, you see, for ever doing this one thing “wrong” in the first place. It’s totally normal to bring up these small things years later for no good reason other than dragging someone’s name through the mud.

Now see, here’s where John and I agree: it is, actually, totally okay and normal to bring up the bad things people have done, whenever it is relevant or couth to do so, especially if it is part of making a larger point that actually has a meaningful impact on people, such as establishing a long-term pattern of awful behavior, or questioning why people would associate with someone for what constitutes some good reason. I am heavily critical of Elon Musk for example, and I will be until the day I die. I will absolutely bring up things he has said and done within the past several years, not simply because he has failed to grow and improve, but more to the point: he continues to get worse with each passing day, saying and doing such insane and terrible things that it makes me wonder why anyone ever liked him to begin with.

On the contrary, the woman in question is not exactly guilty of any sort of crime, legally or morally. Even if you argue “maybe they shouldn’t have cursed that one time”, you have to admit that it was not only so long ago, but it was a singular event. There is no evidence to suggest that she regularly exhibits seriously problematic and unprofessional behaviors. My closest understanding of the situation is simply that this is the best thing John could find in an attempt to discredit the Scala Center, which is pathetic.

Closing & Resolutions

I would like to say something as easy and simple as, “I think John should apologize to this woman, and the Scala Center for attacking one of their own”. I would like to, but it seems futile at this stage. People such as John, not specifically but an entire group of people, these men who feel justified in wedging division between people along sexual boundaries and then recoiling in horror at the suggestion that they might have done or said something wrong, are an entire societal problem. I do not expect an apology, because as I alluded to earlier, John and people like him have long patterns of behavior. Many people, myself and others included, independently come to conclusions about people such as him, based on the way they interact with others. Based on the actions and words they say at appropriate times. I have seen nothing, not one single ray of hope from that crowd, in so many years.

It is so easy to pretend this is as simple as a respectable difference of opinion or whatever. Or even go on a rant about how some form of justice is being done by being “unafraid of the truth” or however these sorts of people want to phrase it.

I am just so tired. I am tired, I am angry, and it does not come from a place of hatred for any one person. It comes from a lifetime of frustration. Frustration for not being able to truly ever understand what it is that other people deal with. Frustration from ever being wrong about any of this at any point earlier in my life. Frustration from the continued acceptance and tolerance of this sort of behavior in technical communities.

And John, if you’re reading this, please grow and change as a person.

Be good to each other out there, folks, but never let your guard down. Keep standing up for what is right, and be willing to speak your truth, unless of course your “truth” involves smearing the reputation of a woman for your own ends.