[FoRK] Gender wars in the age of Twitter and in the land of the ‘brogrammer’

Stephen Williams sdw at lig.net
Sat Mar 23 12:40:27 PDT 2013

People shouldn't deliberately make others uncomfortable with sexual innuendo directed at them: that's sexual harassment.

This didn't sound like it was directed at Adria nor was it about her.  She took offense to a couple of guys joking near her.  
Many guys would have been uncomfortable listening to that too, and wouldn't join in.  But that doesn't necessarily make their 
comedy intrinsically bad.  Nor, just because it was overheard by a woman, is it intrinsically harassing or demeaning.

To some extent, we operate in a mode where we have to estimate whether someone who we think will hear something might be 
offended. This is highly imperfect as social, and especially comedy, norms vary widely.  This is true not just between men and 
women.  In fact, as women assert themselves and are treated and accepted as equals, the concept of women as fragile flowers who 
can't handle banter has mostly evaporated.  All of the women I know, including my daughters, likely wouldn't notice something 
like this, except perhaps to add to the comedy.

Perhaps some women feel outnumbered or otherwise pressured in a too-male environment and industry.  The women I know, including 
those that have worked for me, don't seem to have too much problem with it, usually excelling over most others easily.

I'm all for recognizing and countering discrimination, abuse and pre-abuse, and maliciously affecting other people.  However, 
there are a wide spectrum of people in the real world, from the sheltered pious to the bawdy, rough and tumble.  It is a bit of 
an American tradition, which is greatly expanded by the Internet and other recent history, to have a thick, tolerant skin, in 
public venues at least.

If this were a prototypical conversation about cars, wrestling, football, guns, or politics, it would likely have had to be 
magnitudes more offensive before someone like this would have taken similar offense.  Sex is a fact of life, and a very 
traditional source of humor.  Lacking malicious direction at someone, it is hard to see what the offense was about here.  
Childish maybe, a little uncool with people around with unknown viewpoints, but hardly newsworthy.



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