The background, briefly:
Last night, one @jessicard noted a job specification that offered “Making it rain on dem hoes” (among other things) for a backend coder that is “totally gay for code”. Those are direct quotes. It wasn’t an April Fool’s post.
The man that posted the job opening – a mister Tomi K. – also provided his (Helsinki) phone number and email, so I called him. He “wasn’t sure” exactly how many hoes it would be made to rain upon, and we had a pleasantry or two about the required gayness of said coders. I followed up with an email (which hasn’t yet been reciprocated).
The job posting has been taken down now, alas, but I’m interested in both this, and the follow up.
Thing 1: No chicks
If you haven’t caught on, the major problem with this job posting (aside from being wildly unprofessional, which I can sometimes support) is how it’s aimed squarely at straight men. I can tell, because generally speaking, women aren’t as interested in making it rain on dem hoes, and homosexual men and women tend to be “gay for” other gay people, as opposed to being gay for code.
I like language. I like freedom of speech. I think people should play with language, and I want everyone to have the right to say offensive things. Likewise, I get to complain about it when someone does say offensive things. Therefore, this isn’t about free speech.
It’s about how unwelcome women, and apparently gay people, are in technology fields. Not openly, not obviously, but in the way that Tomi just assumed he was talking to a pool of men, and perhaps the one or two women “that can take a joke”.
Thing 2: Mostly harmless
What’s almost as good is the friend that wrote me privately to explain that I just wasn’t looking at it from Tomi’s point of view. After all, Finland is lots of young people, mostly male (apparently), and they speak differently over there.
This is the exact same argument people make all the time: “It was different back then.” “It’s a different culture.” “You just don’t understand where they’re coming from.” “They’re just quoting something.”
A different time, place, or environment might well make me understand why someone uses bigoted language, but it doesn’t remotely excuse it. It’s still wrong, and I still get to call it wrong. It still makes people feel unwelcome. It still, in this case, dissuades entire sets of people from participating in a great career.
The absolute best metaphor I’ve been able to come up with is this:
I like funny posters and signs in my house. Maybe it would be kind of funny to hang a “whites only” sign over my sink, because only white people live in my house. Funny! Because only white people use it! It’s a whites only sink! And then I’ll invite some people over, and they will in passing see how funny I am. And if one of my guests is black, she shouldn’t take offense. It was just a joke anyway, and I obviously didn’t mean her, duh.
Actually, I would expect my black guest to be some degree of upset, or at a minimum uncomfortable. Why would I want to make one of my guests uncomfortable? Especially for a stupid, ridiculous joke?
Now, why would you want to make women and gay men and women uncomfortable for something as high stakes as a job opening? Especially for a stupid, ridiculous joke?
Thing 3: Having perspective
“But Jen, you’re trying to sanitize the language! You want everyone to be politically correct all the time! And that’s boring! What the hell!”
I’m really, really not. If you’ve met me, if you’ve seen my show, you know we’re rather offensive people ourselves. We do our best to be offensive in reasonable quantities, and in the right situations…like on a late-night webshow where we warn people about the naughty language. On the other hand, we also don’t commonly use racist language or bigoted language , except for the purpose of making fun of racists and bigots. We don’t have to, and we don’t like to make huge groups of people uncomfortable for no damn reason.
This warm, comfortable bigotry is swirled gently into our society and culture. It’s a touch of background spice to the general course of discussion. And it’s poison to the groups of people that it is, however gently, attacking and/or cutting out of the game. They get a little touch of it on TV, a little more at the store, a little more in the looks people give them when they say something, or do something outside of where they’re “supposed to be”. A little bit, all the time, everywhere.
That’s the answer to the big mystery of few women and minorities in IT. You can’t pick out the reasons why people are disenfranchised, because the reasons are dissolved into the language and the culture. They’re “just part of the culture”, or “just a quote”, or “just a joke”. To separate out that hint of exclusion, the very best centrifuge I have is to make massive amounts of fun of bigoted language every time I see it.
Thing 4: Making fun
And why on Earth shouldn’t we? Ridiculous rhetoric REQUIRES ridicule.
P.S. For those about to get onto me for this whole thing: note that I’m discussing the issue, not calling the guy 10 shades of an idiot and screaming for blood. I’m not going to repost his contact information or last name. I don’t think he deserves a witch hunt; he definitely deserves to be made fun of for saying these things, doubly so for doing it in a public job posting, and infinitely more so for adding his personal contact info to it where I could get at it.