We’re going to kick off today’s Cathedral Round-Up with a trip down memory lane.
This may come as some surprise, given my scintillating wit and gregarious nature, but I was not popular in school. If there was a social totem pole, I was a mud puddle about twenty yards to the left of the pole.
The first time I felt like I truly fit in–I belonged–was at nerd camp. This was a sort of summer camp your parents send you to when you’ve failed at Scouting and they hope maybe you’ll pick up chemistry or philosophy instead.
One evening, when I was gathered in the dorm with my new friends, a girl burst triumphantly into our midst, brandishing a book. “I have it,” she triumphed. “I have it! The book!”
The Book, which we all proceeded to read, and after camp ended, to discuss in what were my very first emails, was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Over at Human Resource Executives, McIlvane reports on a new study by Stanford’s Correll and Wynn:
An interesting new study from Stanford University finds that company recruiters from tech firms may be putting off female college grads through their behavior—some of it a bit questionable. …
The researchers found that during their informational presentations, the recruiters—no doubt in an attempt to bond with their audiences—frequently referenced “geek culture favorites” such as Star Trek and The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, focused the conversation exclusively on highly technical aspects of the roles or referred to high school coding experience. …
As diversity experts have pointed out before, geek culture references tend to resonate most strongly with white men while women tend to feel excluded by that culture.
In case you haven’t noticed or this is your first time visiting my humble blog, I am female. All of my friends at camp were female.
“Through gender-imbalanced presenter roles, geek culture references, overt use of gender stereotypes, and other gendered speech and actions, representatives may puncture the pipeline, lessening the interest of women at the point of recruitment into technology careers,” the researchers write.
Dear Diversity Experts: In the words of the first real friend I ever had, please disembowel yourselves with a rusty spoon.
The study itself is not easily available online, so I will respectfully judge them based on summaries in HRE and Wired.
Short version: A couple of sociologist “gender researchers,” who of course know STEM culture very well, sat in on tech company recruiting sessions at Stanford and discovered that nerds talk about nerd things, OMG EWWW, and concluded that icky nerds doing their nerd thing in public is why women decide to go apply for more prestigious jobs elsewhere.
Now, I understand what it’s like not to get someone else’s references. I haven’t seen Breaking Bad, NCIS, Sex in the City, Seinfeld, The Simpsons, or the past X Starwars installments. I don’t watch sports, play golf, or drink alcohol.
But I don’t go around complaining that other people need to stop talking about things that interest them and just talk about stuff that interests me. It doesn’t bother me that other people have their interests, because I have plenty of room over here on my end of the internet to talk about mine.
But apparently these “Diversity Experts” think that the cultural icons of my childhood need to be expunged from conversation just to make people like them feel more comfortable.
Dear Correll and Wynn: when people like you stop assuming that everyone in your vicinity is interested in hearing about wine and yoga and golf, I’ll stop assuming that people who show some interest in my culture are interested in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Notice that the problem here is not that the women are being turned away, or discriminated against, or receiving fewer callbacks than male applicants. No, the problem is that the women think geek culture is icky and so don’t even bother to apply. They have decided that they have better options, but since someone decided that is imperative that all professions be 50% women (except plumbing, sewer workers, truckers, etc.) they must somehow be tricked into going into their second-choice field.
No one seems to have thought to, ahem, consult the actual women who work in Tech or who have STEM degrees or are otherwise associated with the field about whether or not they thought these sorts of geek cultural references were off-putting. No, we do not exist in Correll and Wynn’s world, or perhaps because our numbers are low, there just aren’t enough of us to matter.
STEM/tech exists in this weird limbo where women abstractly want more women in it, but don’t actually want to be the women in it. Take Wynn. She has a degree in English. She could have majored in Chemistry, but chose not to. Now she whines that there aren’t enough female engineers.
People routinely denigrate law and lawyers. Lawyers are the butt of many jokes, and people claim to hate lawyers, but lawyers themselves are treated with a great deal of courtesy and respect, and have no difficulties on the dating market.
STEM works inversely: people claim to hold scientists and mathematicians in great respect, but in practice they are much lower on the social totem pole. Lots of people would like good grades in math, but don’t want to hang out with the kid who does get good grades in math.
So feminists want women to be acknowledged as equally capable with men at things like “math” and “winning Nobel Prizes” and “becoming billionaire CEOS” (hey, I want those things, too,) but don’t want to do the grunt work that is most of what people in STEM fields actually do. They don’t want to spend their days around sweaty guys who talk about Linux kernels or running around as lab assistant #3. For a lot of people, tech jobs are not only kind of boring and frustrating, but don’t even pay that well, considering all of the education involved in getting them.
The result is a lot of concern trolling from people who claim to want more women in STEM, but don’t want to address the underlying problems for why most women aren’t all that interested in STEM in the first place.
Are there real problems for women in STEM? Maybe. I have female commentators who can tell you about the difficulties they’ve had in STEM communities. It is different being a female in a male-dominated field than being female in a balanced or female-dominated field, and this has its downsides. But “men said nerd things” or “men referenced porn” is not even remotely problematic. (I will note that men have problems in STEM fields, too.)
While we’re here, I’d like to talk about these “Diversity Experts” whom HRE cites as proof for their claims that women find geek culture off-putting. Their link heads not to a study on the subject, nor even an actual expert on anything, but an opinion piece by Kerry Flynn on Mashable:
The lack of diversity in tech isn’t a new issue, and yet top leaders in Silicon Valley still struggle to talk about it.
They struggle so much that this is an entire article about a female CEO talking about it. Talking openly about a thing is the same as struggling to talk about it, right?
The latest stumble comes from YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki speaking with MSNBC’s Ari Melber and Recode’s Kara Swisher at the media companies’ first town hall titled “Revolution: Google and YouTube Changing the World,” which aired Sunday.
The latest stumble, ladies and gents! Wojcicki might be a female CEO of a tech giant, but what the hell does she know? Kerry Flynn knows much better than she does. Wojcicki had better shape up to Flynn’s standards, because Flynn is keeping track, ladies and gents.
According to Wojcicki, one reason for the lack of women in tech is its reputation for being a “very geeky male industry.”
That kind of statement makes it seem like Wojcicki has forgotten about the diverse and minority perspectives that are fighting for representation in the industry. For instance, with the #IlLookLikeAnEngineer campaign, engineer Isis Wenger wrote about the sexism she faced working in tech and inspired a movement of women shutting down stereotypes.
See, women and minorities are trying to counter the perception of tech being a “very geeky male industry,” which Wojcicki obviously forgot about when she claimed that tech has a reputation for being a “very geeky male industry.”
Kerry Flynn is very stupid.
The entire article goes on in this vein and it’s all awful. Nowhere does Flynn prove anything about women not liking The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy.
What other interesting articles does Stanford Magazine hold for us?
So what happens when you send your kids to Stanford? Stanford Magazine has helpful interviews with recent grads. Yeji Jung got enmeshed in Social Justice, changed her major from pre-med to “comparative studies in race and ethnicity,” graduated, and went home to her parents to make collages.
I searched for Yeji Jung’s art, which is supposed to be making the world a better and more just place, and found almost nothing. This red cabbage and the lips in the Stanford Mag article are it. This does not look promising.
I bet her parents are very glad they worked their butts off for years making sure their kid got all As in her classes and aced SAT so she could come home from Stanford and paste paper together.
A quote from the article:
A thesis project to investigate the links between her Korean-American identity and the experiences of her Korean grandmothers took her to Seoul, South Korea, and Manassas, Va., to interview them in Korean.
Wait, you can get a degree from Stanford by interviewing your grandparents? Dude, I call my grandma every weekend! That should be worth at least a master’s.
“[My grandmothers’] lives are so deeply gendered in a way that I just have not experienced as someone who grew up in the U.S. One of my interview questions was framed as, ‘What did you study in college?’ [My grandmother in Virginia said,] ‘Oh, I didn’t go to college — girls in that day didn’t go to college. We went to work.’ That was a moment for me of, ‘Wow, I just have these assumptions about my life that are not a given.’
Girls in my grandmothers’ day went to college. Both of mine went to college. One of them earned a PhD in a STEM field; the other became a teacher. Teacher was a pretty common profession for women in my grandmother’s day. So was nurse.
I can take that a step further: my great-grandmother went to college.
Perhaps she meant was girls in Korea didn’t go to college in those days, though I’m sure Korea had needed plenty of nurses about 70 years ago, and frankly I’m not sure many men were going to college in those days.
I often idly wonder if elites push SJW nonsense to remove competitors. Yeji Jung is probably a very bright young woman who would have made an excellent doctor or medical researcher. Instead she has shuffled off to irrelevance.
19 thoughts on “Cathedral Round-Up: You can have my towel when you pry it from my cold, dead hands”
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Personally I habe to question the intelligence of anyone who likes The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Star Trek etc etc etc.
Yes, I am clearly stupid.
I’ve never been a Star Trek fan, though.
Proably why you’re smarter then the other nerds
I liked The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It was a good read and very amusing. I wouldn’t say I was obsessed by it. I would say the stuff I really liked was the “Dune” series by Frank Herbert, I’ve read everything he’s written. A lot of the “Known Space” stuff by Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven. Ringworld, The Kizen Wars, There Will be War series, The “Haven” series about the Saurons. Mostly hard space opera sci-fi. I thought Star Trek was ok but I don’t get obsession with it.
Ps, I would not let my child into the house if she came home a with a degree in “comparative studies in race and ethnicity,”
She’d be more welcome in the house if she shits in the foyer
I finally got around to reading the complete Hitchhiker’s Guide a few months ago, and really enjoyed about the first half of it. The later parts really felt marinated in the decline and fall of English culture. I note that he had one child, late in life, in America.
IMO, books 1 and 5 are good and book 4 is bad. Books 2 and 3 I thought he was just trying to duplicate success with his first book, which is a hard thing to do. Book 4 he tried to change things up and it just didn’t work. But by book 5, I think he was a more mature writer.
Re: Yeji Jung, it is interesting how salient her conversion to progressivism becomes because of her ancestral culture. She can’t even tell her grandmothers what she is studying (perhaps a mercy). Reading about her, one feels sadness for her grandmothers, and anger at her parents.
I suspect her parents feel rather ashamed and disappointed. They didn’t scrimp and sacrifice for years so their kid could sit on her ass and make collages about pronouns.
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“lawyers themselves are treated with a great deal of courtesy and respect, and have no difficulties on the dating market.”
Does this hold true for female lawyers though, really?
I doubt they get the men who would put them in a happy marriage (which is obviously a narrower population from what more healthy, well-adjusted women would need) as often as bio or teaching grads.
My annecdotal experience says female lawyers do great on the dating market.
Women are mostly not interested in a lot of technical stuff that requires and obsessive interest in minutia. This is what it takes to solve a lot of engineering and software problems. I wish they would stop complaining about it. They can do what they want but stop whining and trying to make social structures into something they are not.
I don’t think HHK is even very nerdy, I see it mostly just an introduction into the British type of humor. Monty Python in space.
IHMO the concept of nerdiness is not very well defined, as far as I can tell, for men, it is composed of four parts 1) STEM 2) hobbies people who are into STEM like, such as reading hard SF, or developing a videogame 3) very low levels of sexual attractivity and social success, and for this a lot of frustration and depression 4) hobbies that work as an escapism from 3)
I think out of this, only 4) requires some explanation. Back in 1992 or so men who would play AD&D had very freudian characters. Either a big strong warrior or a high charisma bard. It reflected them feeling dominated by jocks and wanting to be good with the girls. Another popular type was the smart but bitter wizard who is pulling a revenge of the nerds. Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickmann painted a very good picture of this type in the form of Raistlin in Dragonlance. And these hobbies attracted them because of the problems they had, not because of STEM interests.
So we mean two entirely different things under nerds, at least as men are concerned. Being into STEM and also STEMmish hobbies, excitedly discussing if a Bussard ramjet would work. And the entirely different thing that sucking at finding a girlfriend, sucking at socializing, having friends, and thus burying themselves into 18 hours of World of Warcraft as an escape.
These two things often overlap. But are not necessarily related. Daniel Heinemeer Hanson is an excellent programmer but also a charismatic guy with a hot wife. On the other hand, there are guys with low social skills and using anime for escapism who are not smart enough for STEM. They go on 4chan.
How does this work for women?
For female nerds, I think dating is easier but socializing is harder. There are always plenty of men around who would like a girlfriend, and even non-nerdy men will generally be polite to us. But making friends can be a lot harder, because everyone around is male, and especially once you’re married with kids, you don’t exactly want to hang out with a bunch of guys.
Obviously we are less into competitive hobbies like tabletop gaming, but a lot of us are creative types who enjoy hobbies like writing, fantasy fiction, or sewing historical costumes.
I suppose I should reframe my question. My point is that “nerd” means two trait clusters that are often correlated, but there is not necessarily a deterministic relationship between them, the first cluster is STEM interest and STEMmy hobbies, the second is social frustration and the desire for escapism from it.
My question is whether they are strongly correlated for women too? Historical costumes is a good example of escapism, the desire to escape the low-status self to being a noblewoman or suchlike in a fantasy world. It is very simlar to thin guys playing muscular warriors in D&D. But does this necessarily correlate with STEM vocations and STEMmy interests for women?
The difficulty here is that there are so few STEM-y women that our hobby-space is not well defined, especially if you exclude, “things you do with men.” Like, I played RPGs (mostly Shadowrun) during highschool, but I played them with boys.
The category of “things you do because you are unsuccessful with the opposite sex and therefore frustrated,” is much less of a thing for female nerds because we do fine on the dating market. It’s in socializing with other women that we fail.
I would say, though, that the interest in fantasy is not mere “escapism” as you characterize it. If I just want to look pretty, I could go to the mall, buy fashionable clothes and makeup and jewelry, go to the salon, get my hair done, etc. Women who are interested in historical costumes also don’t tend to go for princess gowns, as these are honestly too complicated for one person in her spare time. What you get instead are people with an extensive knowledge of historical sewing, cloth, dyes, patterns, etc., who sew very specific dresses based on specific times and places, like “Upper-middle-class woman of Florence, 1470,” or “Southern belle, 1860.”
There is (or was) as well a significant “goth” crowd that liked creating outfits in that particular clothing style. (There is significant overlap between the two.)
In general I think there is a lot of interest in physically making things with our hands. My hands are almost always busy, and I feel very antsy and cranky if I am not doing something with them, which is why there are half-finished knitting projects all over the house and I keep planting things outside. I write; I make toys; (I built a wooden “play house” for the children;) I’ve made cheese and yogurt and kefir; in general, I like to make things and I don’t understand how people can just sit and watch TV.
But the difficulty with modern life is that people don’t *need* to make things anymore. You can just buy clothes and cheese at the store. Hence part of the appeal of a time period when people actually made their own belongings.
To be clear, this is just the hobby-end of Female Nerds, not the STEM-end. On the STEM side, we do normal STEM things.
Following up: I think one of the differences between male and female nerd hobbies is that the male ones are more sociable. Men are more competitive, even nerds, and competition requires multiple people. D&D is a social hobby. It’s played in groups. Sewing is not social. You can sew in groups, but it’s not a necessary part of the activity. It’s nice to have a group of people to wear the completed dresses with, but people wear clothes every day and holidays occur regularly, so it’s not necessary.
[…] has/inspires an interesting question: What non-STEM related hobbies do female nerds […]