All right, I think I've figured out what bothers me about Clay Shirky's rant about women. It's because I read it as saying this:
- The world can be sucky and unfair to women who don't use aggressive male-like strategies to promote themselves.
- So women should use more aggressive male-like strategies to promote themselves.
- Yep, it's sucky and unfair that the burden should fall on women to do this sort of thing. Tough.
It isn't that I disagree with any of these points - but there's a missing part. Compare:
- Hey, this $cool_technology I use has $inconvenience for folks who have a certain $preference.
- So folks with $preference should use $alternative_action to do $thing_they_wanted_to_do, even if it's difficult and bothersome for them.
- Yep, it's sucky and unfair that the burden should fall on people with said $preference. Tough.
To which my immediate reaction - to both - is "HEY! Aren't we hackers? Isn't the point not that the world may not be what we want it to be, but that even if it is, we can change that?"
This doesn't mean the world is not sucky and unfair in the ways described. This doesn't mean short-term coping solutions need to be deployed to cope with that immediate reality. It does mean that those coping solutions should be just that - short-term. That what we should do, if we're truly troubled with this situation, is to find our own ways - little ways - to contribute to making that solution as short-term as possible for as many people as possible.
Here's the patch I would have liked to apply.
"It may be possible for the world to someday be less sucky and unfair about this sort of thing. Here is what that may look like and how we - of any gender - can help get us there, and how people have already been doing this for quite some time."
Thinking and writing about this is a start. A great start. The next step is to be actively conscious of not using "learned helpnessness" as a reason to not proactively do something about the situation (which, ironically, is criticizing a group for being disadvantaged due to socially-inculcated "learned helpnessness"). And yes, actively looking for opportunities to help is, in itself, a way and opportunity to help.
"It can be called a second-wave chauvinistic approach: assuming women are flawed because they don’t deal well with the system, instead of assuming the system is flawed because it doesn’t work for women."
Ok, yes, there are ways in which the system sucks. But look - we're hackers. Let's go fix it.