Not All Men: Not Good Enough

May 25

I spent this weekend listening to music, playing music, drinking beer, and ignoring the internet. It was, frankly, awesome.

But not all good things can last. The fun is over, the internet is back in my life, and with it my twitter feed. Which brought me the hashtags #yesallwomen and the predictably awful response of #notallmen. And honestly, I don't have anything insightful or deep to add to this conversation. What I've mostly got, as a father and as a coder, is a deep sense of futility and dread.

I'm sure the connection to fatherhood is obvious to everybody… I have a son and a daughter and I have to raise them to cope with this world, and I would appreciate it sometimes if the world were a little easier to cope with. I'd like my daughter to feel comfortable pursuing whatever is her career of choice without being told she can't do it because she's a girl, and I'd like my son to never be exposed to the idea that she can't do some things because she's a girl. I'd like it if, as a young woman, she can live a life free of the fear of assault, and I'd like it if, as a young man, he is never even exposed to the concept. These things are not going to happen. There are conversations ahead that I'm not looking forward to, and I'm going to have to have them anyway because I'm a parent and I have to.

But what does being a coder have to do with sexism?

Apparently, everything. There are people out there hiring coders who try not to hire women becuase they perceive them as less intelligent or resilient. There are coders out there who apparently feel comfortable, on the internet, suggesting that women should be raped and killed for daring to speak up about sexism. And there are just the everyday bits of banality and low grade evil, just the attitude that all of these problems are in the past and women just can't get over some imagined problem. It's disheartening and depressing… especially that last one, which manages to be patronizing, sexist, and self-contradictory at the same time.

So I'd like to make this plea to my fellow men: can we all agree to at least acknowledge objective reality? Men are not better at math than women. Men are not naturally better at computational thinking than women. These ideas are myths, and if you spent five minutes googling this you would find this out.

And can we all agree to acknowledge the basic statistics that are part of the math we think we're so damned good at? Guess what, oh my fellow coders… odds are you are average or below average at math for a coder, so even if men were better at math than women on average, you're still worse at math than an above average woman. Averages say nothing about individuals.

It isn't enough to acknowledge objective facts. But it would be a start. And if we can't even make that start, we're going to keep having this conversation forever.