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I believe that software development is a creative industry, so it's incredibly disappointing to be reminded of its shortcomings. And by shortcomings, I mean the sexist creeps who still pervade it.

It's perhaps not immediately apparent from most of the content that I put out, but I spend a lot of my time actively writing web software. On any given day, I have NetBeans or Coda open (I'm working my way towards vim, I really am), and I'm writing a feature, diagnosing an issue or reading through something someone else has checked in. I love the web, and I love making things for the people who use it.

I also spend a lot of my time emphasizing that developers are creative. The act of writing software is very similar to creating any large volume of written work, not just because good code has the same properties as good writing. There's a vast amount of writing and re-writing, research end editing, all powered by the same kinds of demanding creative energy at the center of it all. The life of the solitary writer isn't a million miles away from the life of the bedroom coder.

Another property that a good developer and a good writer have in common is empathy. Each is writing for an audience rather than for themselves; they understand people, and can create a shared understanding with a single line. We know that the developers behind Google+ are awesome because we understand it almost intuitively, and the system they've designed works in the way we expect and hope it will. I'm sure that this will become even more apparent as they open the platform up across Google's properties and beyond.

So if great web developers - from the front-end down to core infrastructure - are empathic to a degree, why is our industry so sexist, and why is the sexism on Google+ so bizarrely overt?

I'm not just talking about the G-boobs-le picture +Tom Anderson posted the other day. I've seen stuff in comments - once or twice talking about women I know - that made my stomach turn and far eclipsed what Tom posted (although, don't get me wrong, I don't think he should have posted it).

+Tim O'Reilly had to post a code of conduct for his conferences, which made immediate waves. (Quite a few of the women I know who aren't in the tech sphere shared it with me.) I've heard accounts of women having to deal with all kinds of come-ons, and being physically assaulted as if it was nothing, at tech events. Even in the comments to his post here on G+, people were suggesting that their Asperger's Syndrome meant that they didn't understand how to deal with social situations, and should be excused from this kind of thing. Bullshit: none of the aspies I know are misogynist pricks. That's because, while they are awkward in some social situations, they have at least half a brain.

The longer this continues, the longer it holds back our industry. On a personal level, not a single one of us wants to be perceived as being this kind of person, and we certainly don't want to be tarred with an industry-wide brush (which I believe we still are, to an extent). On a business level, this behavior is turning away creative, smart people who can help build the future.

And on an individual level, I'm sick of it. I just want to make things.
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I do think it is optimistic to hope creative industries were less misogynist than the world that created them, and in this specific case, marginalizes its members as being "geeks who will never get laid."
It's not just misogyny. In general there's this nasty phenomenon in the tech industry where you have people who are a little socially awkward who instead of learning how to deal better with people just learn that they can avoid the need to be socially aware by just cranking up the volume and being jerks. I've seen it tons.
Part of the problem is that there is not useful defense against this kind of behavior. My own fantasy is take the little jerks out back and knee-cap the SOB's, but that is just a fantasy. And for that matter possible undeserved if there is any possibility of redemption. That said the only thing I can think of is to treat this with the same sort of reaction as we might 'anti' behavior against other minorities---gays and blacks. If reviewing a fora, or walking the floor of a meeting/convention the reaction should be the same and immediate. The more noticeable it is, the wider the effect. Those who might still have the problem will most likely shut the hell up and may in fact learn something. Children in general always push perceived boundaries---problem here is there is not a boundary. Build one and enforce it. I'd even look for it in interviews. Talent is a great thing, but not everything...
Great post, Ben. There is such a lot of creativity in your industry and as a (minor league) geek my heart sinks so often when I see the blatant misogyny that is generally accepted out there. Boo, basically.
+Hugh Myers Thank you. And even if you think your own actions are a drop in the bucket, know that seeing a member of the majority class standing up against this behavior, especially immediately and first, is a very powerful experience for the minorities targeted. All too often, members of minorities do not speak up in these situations because they just want to have a career and fit in and do not want to be seen, yet again, as "whiny" or "thin-skinned" or, in this specific case, as "another humorless bitch who can't take a joke", and again be the one who has to do the work. You just sit there and say nothing and do nothing but choose if you want to get angry or numb.

Walking out of the talk, saying "Hey!" in a discussion where someone says something crass, countering a comment on a board, those acts of protest and trying to change the norms strengthen the people being marginalized: it's nice to know you are not alone and not crazy.
When I think about tech-geek girls working in the field, whether in real life or in fiction, the same expression always comes to mind and it's the one from the Famous Five, said of George: "She was almost as good as a boy!"

1. Sure, female hackers and software developers and so on are totally accepted... provided they are indistinguishable from men by their behaviour/demeanors.

2. "I'm happy to work with women and treat them as equals... provided I'm not in any way attracted to them, because they then become the embodiment of my youthful traumas and must therefore be derided and ignored."

Generalisations and speculations, of course. But anecdotally I see those sorts of attitudes play out quite frequently.
FYI, my circles are still forming, so for you I had to create a new one: "random cool people." you're currently the first and only inhabitant of it :)
Brian G
You really need to evaluate this in context or run the risk of making software sound like a sexist career. Sexism is a wide-spread issue, heck it's an issue people don't even understand, but it's not unique or special to software, nor is it a symptom of it.
It's got to start with CS departments who have historically not cared about gender balance in incoming classes, or developing social and professional skills among their nerdy herds. And then they get hired into male dominated, socially stunted teams. And the cycle continues. See med schools for a way to do it right.
When confronted with it on a message board or comments thread or whatever, there's usually complete denial that there's a problem, with (usually white, middle class, men*) people saying things like "the woman who has her tits out is smiling, if she's happy with it then obviously it's not sexist" or whatever pathetic excuse they come out with. And of course the word "feminazi" gets thrown around, because obviously people who want equal rights are equivalent to fascists. It gets tiring having to justify your right to be female and angry when usually you're just dismissed out of hand ("she's just on the rag", "ooooh, stroppy!", "bitch" etc.).

+Ben Werdmuller von Elgg Great post.

*I have not done a study so I can't swear this is so, but I'd be surprised if it was otherwise.
+Michael Chisari - What exactly do you mean by "culture of exclusivity"? Do you have any examples of such a thing in the hacker community? Also, saying that anyone can do software development is like saying that anyone can be an artist. Sure, everyone has the means, but not all have the interest or the skill.
Another thing that occurs to me is to ask---is this the same in the 'Maker' community? My perception from (regrettably outside looking in) is that it is not. It might be (if so) because it is 'newer' and has yet to decay to the same level; I hope not. What I'd like to believe is that folks in that segment are too busy doing neat/fascinating things that simply don't relate to this sort of nonsense. Having worked with women in many of the jobs I done over the years, I will admit to the occasional evil thought which I sadly never had the guts to express in any un-offensive way, but I never had any doubts about the value of them on the teams I was a part of. My developer counterpart in my current piece of work is a women---she writes the Lisp, I write the Perl and when necessary we trade off to a lesser extent. I think the best example was writing EA's Chessmaster (or whatever it was called). Every member of the team was a rated chess player----and I was the lowest rated! The rest were Masters; something to which I aspire to but have never been willing to devote the time to. I held my own because of where I stood on a comparable scale with regard to programming :) So if it can be done in the budding 'Maker' community and in exceptions with in the development community, where is the barrier to a wider adoption in the rest of the industry?
+Ashe Dryden Fine. Universities are businesses. They should still strive to provide the best value for their customers.
@Adam Ierymenko In my experience this can be mediated by a good company culture / management that finds these jerks and calls them out. Hopefully they have the social skills to understand public embarassment and adjust their behavior. You can also try to weed out these personalities during interviews.

I really enjoy the very few female developers around because sometimes developer discussions are just way too macho. I've noticed girl devs aren't nearly as hesitant to ask for help, or say the truth about something even if it could make them look incompetent.

I really just can't understand how any dev would sink to come-ons and unwanted physical contact of any kind. That has nothing to do with being a nerd in a male-dominated industry: you just don't do that to anyone, period.
There hasn't been any sexism at the developer conferences I've attended. At all.

However, I've heard personal accounts from friends who have attended conferences of other circles (say, a linux-centered conf), and the account is quite different.

It really depends on the culture of the group.
I don't think Tom's photo is sexist. It's inappropriate, perhaps, but not an attack on equality.

Naming a project 'Pantyshot' and 'Upskirt' is.
Great post! I just wanted to point out the great differences in people and discussions you see here than what can be seen in Tom Anderson's post, which is great.

Going on topic, I would like to say that many times I have seen people say that women are horrible coders, and that men know more about programming than women. I always respond by saying that the first programmer was a women, computers were mostly operated by women in the first half of the twentieth century, and, to top it all (because most misogynist are also homophobic), the guy who invented the computer architecture was homosexual. Most of the times that shut them up. It's the culture that we live in that alienates women in programming circles...
+Kenneth Reitz there are different aspects and degrees of sexism. Naming a project "Upskirt" is clearly hostile. The picture on Tom's posting was different - the visual pun is funny, and the woman seems to be enjoying creating the joke.

The issue is how the post helps define its audience. When you're sharing on a social site, the action is about the relationship between the poster and the recipients, and that community's relationship with the picture. When a man shares a picture of a woman with big breasts, the assumption is that his audience is other men who get a kick out of the picture.

More troubling than the picture itself was the dynamic in the comments when Tom asked how people felt about the picture. The question brought out a lot of hostility, with commenters attacking the supposed prudes and ill-humored shrews who objected to the picture. The picture did bring out shared assumptions among the audience and those weren't pretty.
Unfortunately no matter what degree of inappropriate the photo is the real problem is the reactions to anyone who finds it inappropriate. If it wasn't for ten years of dealing with the sexist bullshit in the tech community I would probably find the photo hilarious. Given my experience though it looks like a bubonic pustule indicating something deeper and sicker. Now I'm just sad.
Fact Alert: Hackers, Software Engineers and their ilk are known for their bizarre system of 'meritocracy' in which the respect you garner isn't related to your race, creed and, yes, this may hurt ladies, but your gender as well. I feel a lot of this 'misogyny' (Which I've never actually seen) is misinterpreted as being misogyny when in reality, we're treating you exactly the same as we treat our male colleagues. I won't treat you special for being a member of the fairer sex. I will treat you special if you can write a performant hash table in x86, regardless of your gender.

(I'm of course not saying that sexism doesn't happen or isn't comparable in the Software industry to say, any other similar industry, but I am saying that the alleged scale it happens at simply can't exist based on real-world experiences.)
"fairer sex"
"this 'misogyny' (Which I've never actually seen)"

I... can't. I have a deadline to meet. I'd just like to politely point out all men who are thinking about proclaiming that they've never seen any sexism: that's probably because it wasn't directed at you.
What is wrong with female? Certainly even you recognize how dismissive your original reply was, and including silly girly names when talking about women in a thread about sexism is not going to get you any serious replies.
If you can't see how ridiculous using 'the fairer sex' in this context is, I just...

Ugh. Close screen. Deadline.
+Zephyr Pellerin I don't see how you can argue that that presentation wasn't sexist regardless of what GeekFeminism says about it. Regardless of what they say about it, the presentation stands on it's own "merits" I linked there because it's a convenient reference. You're attacking the source I linked, not the material (the presentation) in question.
+Zephyr Pellerin There is a difference between discriminating people who aren't being discriminated regularly and discriminating people who clearly suffer because of this discrimination. (I'm not sure if I made myself clear.) I mean, I don't have a problem with people making a joke that is offensive to police officers or white people, because most of the time, it's harmless; on the other hand, when you make a racist or sexist joke you are propagating an idea and maintaining an stereotype that is harmful to society. If you don't believe that last sentence, please take a look at many of the comments in Tom Anderson's post, that are clearly offensive (from the low scale, like calling people who disagree ugly, to others I don't even want to copy).
And one more thing, maybe you haven't seen sexism in your life, but many people have, as can be seen by the post and the comments. Can you really not believe any of these people?
Helen: really close screen. This conversation goes nowhere. I've had it many times before. Once someone denies or minimizes what's happening there's no getting around that blind spot.
No woman was ever lynched for being a female, and yet I'm seeing people seriously claim that its a non-issue in relationship to racism.

Everyone, re-read this thread and seriously think about how this factors on your priorities scale. Again, I'm not disputing that sexism is there, but guess what, sexism, racism, ageism, and general prejudice is the nature of the 'verse here, if you can't handle that, you are likely not cut out for life in the 21st century. People are being killed in Africa and millions are starving in southeast asia, within our own country hundreds of women AND men are starving and homeless, problems that need to be discussed with real and tangible solutions - but you find the most profitable use of your time is debating the mere EXISTENCE of wide scale dick-jokes and insensitive comments? If this issue still seems more important to you than other people's well being and life and death and all the other actual issues that need to be dealt with, then go on, continue to argue, its more important than other peoples life and death after all.
+Zephyr Pellerin, global troubles also don't stop us from looking at alternative energies, making new art, and trying to make things better - in fact, making things better is mostly what our industry is about. Trying to increment society is not a bad aim.
So, dude, women HAVE been lynched for being women and doing male things (i.e., having sex before marriage, being loud/independent and being called a witch for it, etc.). So I would say, yes, women HAVE been lynched for being female.
+Caro Williams by that logic (and extending quite far into history now, whereas I was talking about lynching that happens in the deep south today and in recent history) plenty of men have been lynched for being men by being loud/independent. You may remember a period in history called the French Revolution, among others.

Black men were denied the right to vote well after women were, this gives you a pretty good idea of where societies real prejudices lie.

+Ben Werdmuller von Elgg I absolutely agree, I think the central concern here is that nothing productive is happening here or in any other conversation of this nature, this whole thing just sews dissension and leads to WORSE gender relations (I know I'm going to already be accosted for 'gender relations', which shows you the general level of discourse here) and WORSE power dynamics between the sexes by ignoring the issues that women AND men suffer for and with. We're not incrementing society, its just a pity-grab and maybe some e-group therapy at this point.
Of course those problems are real (Africa, Asia, etc.), and of course we should be doing something about them. But, all of we (including you) are discussing other topics here, because it what we can do NOW. I'm not in Africa or Asia right now, and although I can donate money, that's almost everything I can do from here taking into account the comforts I want for my life.

We all fight different wars, we all need to know about these issues that are causing problems in society. We do what we can, and try to eradicate the problems we see at hand. When we are discussing sexism, we try yo make our points get across. When someone post something regarding the problems in Africa or Asia, I'm sure I'll try to get my ideas there too.

Again, there are many problems in the world, we can try to fight all of them; we don't have to chose. Being a feminist and defending women in general, doesn't mean we don't care about other problems; for example, I also try to fight for animal rights, but that doesn't mean I forget about humans.

Different problems, different situations, different solutions. We do what we can.
Chris Z
Well, many women feel unwelcome in tech. This is a fact, and is regardless of whether or not you think they're being unreasonable or oversensitive.

The question is, do you want to change that?
+Zephyr Pellerin If you want to see problems regarding sexism right now, you can look at the difference in wages, women getting fired for being pregnant (two cases recently in the UK), women doing double the work (because they have a job, but they also have to take care of children most of the time, and all the house stuff - there are various studies in this subject) and even, if you want to go to other countries (because as Internet is global many people from different situations may be here), there is also a lot of sexism that cause death of women in the Middle East and Asia (stoning and selective pregnancy being two of them I can think of right now).
Um, want to show me where we said racism is not as bad as sexism? This is a thread about a specific topic: sexism in tech. Derailing into 'there are other people who have it worse so shut up' is dumb. You're the one whose whinging is blowing it all out of proportion.

And just so you know, I work four days a week directly addressing the whole food poverty thing in Brixton, on some of the poorest estates in the UK. You?
Well, anyway, Ben, thanks for writing a fabulous post--it is greatly appreciated! And now, I'm out...
+Zephyr Pellerin I don't agree with your sentence, and I don't think I'm unique. Please show me a study that proves this, as I have only found that testosterone (a hormone both women and man have) as the one responsible for more physical aggression in males (which means that castrating them should be a solution for aggressiveness). As for the taking risks part... I just don't know.
In fact, I thinks this things are more a cultural thing that you think. Many other cultures have more aggression in females (as you can see in the Wikipedia article about aggression) than males.
Ok, that was not the important part of my point, and, in fact, I wanted to mean just that. Sorry I made a mistake.
I'm glad you're doing such good things for an amazing enterprise and I am grateful that there are people out there who are working towards making things better. I try to as well. /restraint
Chris Z
+Zephyr Pellerin That's fine, and I see exactly your point -- women not being marginalized for their gender is about as plausible as a mountain of rootbeer and hard sugar. That's fine. But bear that in mind when people complain about not having enough women in the tech industry.

Fundamentally, one reason there aren't more women in tech is because they feel unwelcome. None of this evopsych "men are genetically predisposed to being more aggressive so they're better int he tech industry" or whatever. It all boils down to women feeling unwelcome, and the question of whether or not people want to change that, or if they're happy with things the way they are.
+Zephyr Pellerin I'm sorry, I didn't take into account because I was looking for the source of that. I haven't been able to find it. Can you tell me how did you get to that conclusion? Everywhere I find talks about the median and not the average salary, including Wikipedia, and says that women, on median, make less than men, even in similar jobs.
Brian G
+Ashe Dryden I'm sorry, but I challenge everyone who says this that they truthfully don't understand the issue of sexism:
> It's more the fact that the ratio of men to women is very high,

I'm sorry, this is flatly absurd and unfounded as an indicator for sexism. Sexisim is an issue, not a statistic that you don't like. Sexisim is discriminating against women, not the fact that only 8% of the US prison population is female, or 13% of wikipedia contributors are female. Better yet, is the child and youth worker field, vastly dominated by women, discriminating against men? No? Why not? Is the retail field relatively free from sexism because it's statistical split nearly 50%?

There are no sexuality related barriars what-so-ever to post on Wikipedia, but this "sexist ratio" exists there. Can you explain this? Only 8% of american prisoners are female, and a small number of politicians are female also (despite a large number of voters being female) can you explain this with something other than allegory?

It's not that the field of computer studies are actively out harassing women and treating them as if they are a less-than-human race unfit for computer science. I'm sorry, but I find that an entirely repugnant implication.

This is akin to the mind-set that not having a racial purity officer walk the halls of an office to ensure even split between white, black, asain and latino, and thus maintain that a workplace is free of racism.

No, that's wrong. You're abusing statistics for something that doesn't add up. Stop it. Investigate a cause of cause and effect, don't pick out a statistic you don't like and scream about it.

Fight for actual women's right and fair treatment, don't scream bloody murder because women aren't trying to participate in software. Scream because the critical skills and passions that programmers have a propensity towards aren't given to little girls; boys get lego, girls get dolls. That's the cause of this cause and effect.

Men and women are different, that's not bad, but it's bad when you tell them being different is wrong, or a reason they cannot reach their full potential is because of some lumps of flesh between their legs.

The dreams and ambitions of women everywhere aren't being stomped on by some guy and fake boobs. Idiots exist everywhere, there's nothing unique about software, retail, the judicial system, Wikipedia authors, or child care workers that we aren't at a 50% split in gender.
Here is an interesting article from Fog Creek software about their efforts to train and hire women, including perspective from a female intern about how to make a workplace more appealing for women programmers:
Women in every industry should thank you for this post. And, let me just say "the fairer sex" is not asking to be treated special. I think we all just want to be treated with respect and kindness.

While I don't write code, I have experienced both overt and covert sexism, especially working in my current role in a technology space. At least with the overt comments or suggestions or touches, you can speak up. And, other people too can see the overt. There's less room for "oh she's just imagining it." The covert stuff is almost worse. That's the stuff that people get away with -- people not answering questions from a female manager, not taking findings from a female counterpart or manager seriously, looking past the woman in the room who has specific experience to ask the man who has no experience with the discussion what his thoughts are on some specification. That's the stuff that slowly kills creativity.
Chris Z
Do you feel only coders deserve respect?
That... is quite an unenlightened, unfortunate and short-sighted point of view. You think you need to be a builder to become an engineer or an architect?
Well, all I can say is that I'm glad I don't have to work with you as such an unbalanced view of your role can only be detrimental to the success of your project, and company. It takes a wide variety of skills to make those successful and the most success comes from respecting and relying on the skills of others that you, yourself, do not possess. Disrespect like yours breeds disrespect and rapidly leads to a toxic work environment. Fwiw, I have known people with your attitude and their careers ultimately stagnated or came to a very sudden end despite their undeniable coding ability. And since you clearly would ignore this post unless I state otherwise, I am a coder.
Chris Z
I mean, that's basically saying non-technical cofounders don't deserve respect either, which I don't feel is true (while admittedly, the majority of non-technical cofounders in the tech industry are kind of confused, I don't think it's fair to say none of them deserve respect).


/if you're a Man/

unfortunate typo? Or, most hilarious typo ever?
Oh, Sarah, I do think you're ace. I hope that means something to you, even if I am not a coder and live in "Brixton".
Brian G
+Ashe Dryden Right, software is different than other industries, however, it is not unique in terms of being unique in it's map of who's attracted to participate. Is this concept vastly different for other professions? Tool and dye makers attract a specific crowd with specific personal attributes, as does legal, as does retail, as does everything. That's why some people enjoy careers others do not. Software is not unique in this paradigm of people liking things they like, based on personal tastes and personalities.

This is very much my point, different things attract different people, the moment we talk about ratios being an issue we've accused the majority of discrimination and all too often our knee-jerk response is to put in all sorts of policies to equalize the industry in the name of equality until we see that ratio reach dead even.

Also, you need to be very careful when you start to make statements like "it tends to skew toward people that spend a lot of their socializing time with people not face-to-face", as I flatly disagree, I personally know many people who love socializing in person over on-line. However, we can't prove anything with these anecdotal stories, and the burden of proof remains on you for such a statement.

I've seen women unsure of themselves in all aspects of life, but you know what? I've seen men unsure of themselves just today in JavaScript chatroom on StackOverflow. Men an women react differently to these things. Programming can be an intimidating community in general if you're scared of making mistakes, and your personality, not gender, needs to overcome the challenges.

So, what I would like to really understand is your view that the ratio of men to women in compsci doesn't need to be 50/50, but simultaneously, that gender somehow is important, and we would all benefit because the quota of people with differently shaped sex organs than the majority are in so called "roll model" positions. Doubly so when you agree we need to teach children that these aren't gender-driven rolls. All of these goals are in conflict, as best I can see them.
You idiots are attributing social and cultural effects to gender essentialism. OH MY GOD. "Men and women this" "Men and women that" as if that's a product of gender. Jesus Christ.
Chris Z
Well, do you agree that a diversity in thoughts and ideas leads to a healthier "ecosystem"?

Do you believe that some women are attracted to the tech industry, and are interested in tech?

And do you believe women when they say that they ARE attracted to some aspects of the tech industry, but that the way they're treated and the way women are treated within the industry make them uncomfortable and unwelcome?

It seems to me that women who are, were, or could have been interested in tech are being driven away from the tech industry -- by societal expectations, by members of the industry, by perceived sexism, etc.

Do you see a problem with that?
Oh, I'm crying of lolz. But what do I know? I come from a humanities background.
Chris Z
See, that's where your opinion differs from that of a lot of people. A common complaint I hear is "there aren't enough women in tech", followed by a bunch of behavior that makes women feel discouraged from entering the tech industry, which, as I'm sure you understand, makes the complainer look supremely ignorant.
+Sarah Beukelman What can I say? I'm a scientist, not a psychic. Precognition is more of a liberal art.

Oh, and don't forget who made that computer you just used to send a message to me over a vast interconnected electron highway, and who discovered the electron, and invented the internal combustion engine, or modern insulation or anything significant that separates your 1st world life from desolation and savagery. (Unfortunately, David Sedaris and Jean Paul Satre are behind exactly none of these inventions.)
God +Sarah Beukelman don't you know your history degree is useless if you want to change the world? Pffffffffffft, you and your humanities.

Misogyny is rampant in the "hard" sciences, too. Luckily, I work at an awesome, woman-friendly laboratory. /microbiologist But I've heard horror stories.
Consider this excellent research survey ( which explains why women tend not to want to work in this industry. Consequently, by not seeing a lot of women around, people (guys) MAY reach the wrong conclusion that women are not good at it, and as a result of this wrong conclusion sexism arises over time.

I say "MAY reach the wrong conclusion", because not having women around does not imply that they are not good at this job. This key and subtle point (of how statistics of observation should be applied) is developed very well in the survey. Unfortunately, the less experienced mathematically thinker (which most people are) will easily slip into the wrong conclusion.
Hmm, I have to respectfully disagree. I think this comes down to more of an issue of things people should simply be less sensitive to. We're sexual beings by our very nature. A heterosexual male likes the female body. This shouldn't be vilified. It's perfectly normal and natural. Any sexual taste whether hetero, homo, man to woman, woman to man, man to man, woman to woman -- is natural.

I don't have a problem with some chick posting two hot dudes in a thong, and having some google representation somewhere. That's no problem to me. I think it should be seen as an appreciation of natural beauty. There is nothing wrong with this.

We all need to just relax, calm down, take life a bit easier, learn to not vilify what's natural, and enjoy being human. This is who we are.

I will however say, some of the comments... A bit inconsiderate. Though, the picture itself, what it represents, and the reason for it's existence... I have no problem with.

More specifically, I think the problem lies with perception. Take for instance the comment posted by +Diana McQueen :
Sorry, +Tom Anderson I don't really care about learning more about google plus with an image like that. Were you just wondering about why women don't join groups like this? Because the men think all we're good for is sex, who the fuck wants to talk to or fuck someone like that? Please.

I think the missed perception here is the idea that sharing a picture like this means the sharer thinks women are only good for sex. This is simply not the case. Rather, this is just a display of one thing that is, in fact beautiful... The female body. Just as a display of a nice male body doesn't mean women think men are only good for sex. It's simply an appreciation of one facet of females.

To state that sharing something like that is the same as saying "Women are only good for sex, and can't be programmers" is reading between non-existant lines. It's shoving words into the sharer's mouth.

It's okay to be beautiful, and it's okay to admire beauty.
Chris Z
So... Are you basically saying that it's the women's fault that they feel objectified and marginalized and you don't feel anyone should change their behavior?

If that's the case, should we even try to include them more in the sciences or should we just tell them "this is how we are, and we only want you if you're willing to let us treat you like this"?
Chris Z
Well, no, it's not the culture of intense competition and intellectual conflict that the women I know are complaining about, and I'm kind of bothered that you think sexism and competitiveness are the same thing, because they're really not.

You can be competitive without being sexist, and what women complain about is that they feel unwelcome because of their sex, not unwelcome because the culture is too competitive.

If we assume N% of women "can handle" a competitive field, but that M% of those women don't enter or stay in the tech industry because they feel uncomfortable and unwelcome, there'll be some number of women that could have contributed to the industry but didn't because they decided they didn't want to be involved in it.

Or, let's expand this to consumers, because this is about more than being a member in the industry.

There are women I know who don't use G+ because they feel unwelcome and marginalized by its userbase.

Is this because they are unwelcome, and should stay out of it?
Chris Z
All I said was "Women say they feel unwelcome, both working in tech and as consumers of tech projects. Do we want to be better at making them feel welcome, or do we want to say it's because they're oversensitive and not change things?"

You are obviously advocating the latter approach, which is an approach that drives away some potential members (the women who would have joined if they hadn't felt unwelcome).

You're very... angry? Why are you angry?

Also, 20% of the tech industry is women, given the current status quo. Are you saying if the industry were more welcoming to women and felt less sexist to women, the tech industry would remain 20% women, and that number won't go up?
I'm simply stating this ideal that appreciating the physical features of a woman shouldn't be seen as merely "objectification"

If a woman feels like it's "wrong", that's certainly her right. I just think it's a bit silly. I have no problem with women admiring the physical features of a man.

In the end, we are just humans who have innate desires. This one happens to be harmless. I can look at the booble picture, enjoy it, think that lady is pretty, and without hesitation turn around to a female colleague, and respect her in her field.

Just because woman can be sexy, doesn't mean they can't also be very talented in other ways. Also, just because a woman isn't sexy, also does not mean they're not highly capable in other areas.

The hatred of appreciation is despicable. Appreciating a beautiful female, or her physical features is perfectly fine. This in no way hurts a woman's ability to be smart, capable, or talented. They are separate issues, and should be treated as such.

Any attempt to couple them is simple over-sensitivity.
Also, I'd like to point out there is positive commentary from women on that post. Of course, there is also negative commentary... But the positive should say something.
Chris Z
So, the question isn't "Does this objectify women?"

The question is, "Given that this behavior offends some women and makes them feel bad, do we want to change the behavior?"

It's a fact that some women are offended by the picture -- there are comments, by women, basically saying, "I am offended by this picture".

Do we care that they are offended?
That's their right to be offended. I think being able to live in my own skin, and not hide who I am as a human being is more important. People are constantly having to adjust to other environments where things are done differently than they may be used to.

This is a perception issue. It is they who have the change to make.

I was once told by a very wise man than life is like a room that everyone is standing in. If you want to see things differently, you can't ask others to move... You can, it's just highly likely they won't move.

The only real control you do have is to move yourself. This is the only way to be certain you will gain a different perspective, or vantage point in this room of life.

If they want to see things differently, they have to move. I'm fine with the view I have. Let's be honest... This wasn't a picture that said "women are only good for prostitution, cooking, and cleaning"

Any interpretation of it to mean anything along those lines (even remotely) is perception, not reality.

If that picture offends some women, that's fine. That's their prerogative. We all have a choice on which things we allow to upset us. If they don't like it, they have to make another choice: Is this a group of people I want to surround myself with?

If the answer is no, that's also fine. Just note that we're not ostracizing women. There are men who are offended too, and there are women who weren't offended. People are choosing to ostracize themselves based on their own values. That is fine. They have that choice.
Chris Z
See, I think that's a perfectly legitimate point to make, but it does boil down to "If you don't feel welcome here, then that's because you aren't [because you're over-sensitive or your point of view is wrong], and we aren't going to change to make you feel more welcome."

I'm okay with that.

EDIT: To throw a random analogy in, this is basically the same as saying "If the page is broken because you're on IE7 and it makes you feel unwelcome, then that's because you aren't [because you're using the wrong browser], and we're not going to start supporting IE7 to make you feel more welcome".

And plenty of companies do that because the IE7 userbase isn't important enough to change things to support it.
That's not a very good analogy.

While it may seem as though parallels can be drawn from business with financial motives involved, I think that's a very loose coupling, and likely to provide incorrect assumptions.

Some businesses need their software to run in one browser more than another because the market has dictated that. In some cases... The market is so diverse all browsers have to be supported.

The thing to remember here, is this isn't a choice that's made due to moral drivers, or whether or not one browser is cooler than another, nor whether or not one browser offends a developer more than another.

These decisions are based on how to maximize profits for that company.

Back to your original statement that some users aren't welcome in this community, sure... I'll go along with that. So long as the perception is in the same realm as me not being welcome at a swinger's club because that's not something I'm into.

This is a diverse world where people are guaranteed to not always get along or agree.

EDIT: in this case, I think you and I more or less agree.
Philip, you are such a tool. Thought you should know!
Chris Z
Sarah, at least he's being honest about what he thinks and how he feels, so you know to avoid/ignore him if he's past your threshold for acceptable tool levels in a human being. I think that's much better than you getting to know him and THEN realizing he's a tool.
+Sarah Beukelman No need to stoop to ad hominem remarks. I have no issues with you.

You're not alone in your dislike for the kind of stuff this post is opposing. That said, not all women share your opinion. This makes this a matter of personal opinion as opposed to a matter of sexism, since many men both share your opinion, and oppose your opinion.

Do you really think there is something "not okay" with appreciation/acknowlegement of something beautiful?
" Is this because they are unwelcome, and should stay out of it?

Yes Chris, you've nailed the obviously most likely scenario, which is that this whole time we've been running an international homosexual conspiracy to keep women out of science because in order to perpetuate our dominance over abstract algebra - They'll never exceed our power if they can't take find topological homologues!

But you were supposed to keep it secret, where were you for PatriarchyCon 2010!?!?"

Interesting alternative definition of "homosexual". Also, I may be mistaken, but I believe that there is far less both imbalance and discrimination in higher math, ignoring that there's no such term as "topological homologue" and topological homologies are homologies from topology, not abstract algebra (what a counterintuitive name, right?).

" If we assume N% of women "can handle" a competitive field, but that M% of those women don't enter or stay in the tech industry because they feel uncomfortable and unwelcome, there'll be some number of women that could have contributed to the industry but didn't because they decided they didn't want to be involved in it.

To me this sounds a little like sour grapes, as this little quip demonstrates you're worse at elementary statistics and the process of logic than any woman ever was."

That's going in my list of favorite quotes.

+Zephyr Pellerin's last substantive comment misses the point (and threw in an ad hominem argument, too, but ignoring that):

The point +Chris Z is trying to make is, in the hypothetical case that women are driven away purely by things like the boobs picture, and not at all by things intrinsic like "the culture of intense competition and intellectual conflict", would you still say this isn't a problem it makes sense to fix?
(The comment about N% and M% simply says what I just said with the assumption that N and M are nonzero, in which case the (hypothetical) set of women I'm referring to would be a nonzero N⋅M⋅0.01% of women. What does not understanding that say about who's "worse at elementary statistics and the process of logic"?)

This is a distinct point from whether the above hypothetical situation is or isn't the case, and from whether men are intentionally trying to keep women low in technical fields (which no one is arguing for).
+Philip Thrasher's viewpoint seems to be based on an extreme version of Geek Social Fallacy #2 [1] "Friends accept us as we are", extended to "Newcomers accept our industry as we are, even if we do unnecessary things that cause women to see us as sexist pigs."


He has otherwise been very rational and reasonable.

I wonder what he has to say against the arguments about what's wrong with that social fallacy, or why those arguments don't apply?
+Philip Thrasher That's funny, I have a lot of issues with you. Mostly because you think I should think it's perfectly acceptable that you consider a beautiful woman a "something" rather than a person whom you can ogle at your leisure, even in a professional context, I have nothing but contempt for you, your opinion, and everyone who thinks as you do.

You probably think street harassment is cool.

PS: Shitstain.
Chris Z
Oh oh oh! I know the answer to this one!

If a woman (who is smaller and physically weaker than me and preferably also physically attractive) catcalls me, I'd be flattered! Women are just oversensitive and can't take a compliment!

But no men, ew, and DEFINITELY not if I think they'd be able to take me in a fight.

EDIT: Yeah, I always forget to link to Geek Social Fallacies.

I mean, just anecdotally, we have phrases like "he's socially awkward, but he's normal by CS standards" and the "antisocial neckbeard coder" stereotype. We have "Computer Scientist or Serial Killer?" and "a hobo came into the room but I thought he was a grad student" (but in our defense, we figured it out eventually, and he really did look a lot like a grad student).

Just in the tech industry. We don't have this stereotype for lawyers or doctors or, as +Han Wei said, mathemeticians (to this extent, at least).

Why do people have so much trouble acknowledging that yes, maybe, an industry disproportionately populated with socially awkward men might lead to an environment in which women feel unwelcome?
+Sarah Beukelman

Mostly because you think I should think it's perfectly acceptable that you consider a beautiful woman a "something" rather than a person whom you can ogle at your leisure, even in a professional context, I have nothing but contempt for you, your opinion, and everyone who thinks as you do.

This is where you're actually wrong about me. I don't consider her a "something". I don't know the woman in that picture. She may be (for all I know) a developer that works with the other two guys in the picture. That's entirely possible.

I don't think of her as a something. I think of her holistically as another human being. Human beings aren't just physical, and they're also not just "what's on the inside"

Quite the contrary, we're all those things. This particular woman happens to have very attractive physical features. She has a pretty face, and a nice body. Good for her. That's one of her many great qualities as a human being.

I'm sorry you appear to think I'm some kind of jerk. I look at myself as simply capable of being able to guiltlessly appreciate anything that is great. I hope you can get over your personal anger. You seem like a very angry person, and for that, I feel sorry for you.

I also might add the woman in that picture deliberately took that photo. She knew what she was doing. One could argue she likes having her physical features appreciated.

You probably think street harassment is cool.
What is street harassment? You obviously don't know me very well, and at this point I can only assume that you have misunderstood everything I've written thus far. I'm a kind individual interested in caring about, and appreciating other individuals for all the qualities that make them great humans.

PS: Shitstain.
Again, I feel pretty bad for you. No reason to be this angry, or have this much animosity. I'll just let your anger roll off my back, and justify it as "She just horridly misunderstood me." or "She's having a rough time in her life."

I'm a reasonable guy... Others, not so much. You should probably work on that.

+Han Wei
I don't believe people accept us as we are. I simply believe that people have a choice on which environments they'd like to participate in. If the majority of people in our group are one way, that's just how it is. Perhaps over time it will change, but it's made up of a collection of people with certain ideals, beliefs, and desires. This is who they are. If you want to hang out with them, you don't have to like who they are, and you're more than welcome to hang out with them, but you'll just have to understand... This is who/how they are.

It's not a "you're not welcome cuz you're not like us"... It's more like "You're welcome, but this is who/how we are. So as long as you can be okay with that, or even if you're not, just know this is how it's going to be."
Chris Z
Well, right. That's what the question was -- "do we consider this acceptable behavior in this context", and the answer is clearly, "yes, it is appropriate to post pictures of women where the point of posting them is to draw attention to their breasts and other sexual characteristics" and whatever else people are doing to make women feel unwelcome.

Obviously, if women don't like this, they should either accept it or leave, because we don't care.

I don't know if I'd consider this the most enlightened view, but if this is the industry standard, we should stick to our guns and admit it.

We need to stop getting derailed by the question of "are women correct to be offended by this", because that's a bullshit question that doesn't even make sense.
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