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Google’s sexist memo has provided the alt-right with a new martyr

The Guardian – By Owen Jones – Tuesday 8 August 2017

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James Damore’s diatribe against women in tech offers an insight into the male backlash that was an important factor in the rise of Trump.

Google has just reportedly fired one of its workers for circulating a memo discussing the biological inferiority of his female colleagues, and how this made them less suitable for tech. The software engineer in question is James Damore. You’re going to hear a lot about him in the coming weeks: he’ll probably be a star guest on alt-right shows and the rightwing lecture circuit, splashed on the front covers of conservative magazines, no doubt before a lucrative book deal about his martyrdom and what it says about the Liberal Big Brother Anti-White Man Thought Police. For the online right, he’s already a hero: I’ll wager that soon thousands of angry male rightists will change their Twitter profile pictures to Damore’s face, and their Twitter names to I Am James Damore.

Damore castigates his employer for believing an “extreme” idea – “all disparities in representation are due to oppression”, and then offering an “authoritarian” solution – that “we should discriminate to correct for this oppression.” But men and women are simply biologically different, he argues: women have a “stronger interest in people rather than things”, and that their alleged neuroticism and attachment to cooperation makes them less suitable as coders, compared to men who apparently inherently value competition and systematising. Google took the view that suggesting “a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK,” which is difficult to quibble with.

Read the note to employees from our CEO Sundar Pichai about the memo that was circulated over the past week ? http://goo.gl/Km8VJa
9:40 PM – Aug 7, 2017

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Damore’s assertions about gender are, frankly, guff dressed up with pseudo-scientific jargon: not just belittling women, but reducing men to the status of unemotional individualistic robots. But as Yonatan Zunger – until recently a senior Google employee – puts it, those men could not be good engineers. “Engineering is all about cooperation, collaboration, and empathy for both your colleagues and your customers,” as Zunger puts it. Yes, he notes, women are “socialised to be better” (note, not genetically pre-programmed) “at paying attention to people’s emotional needs and so on” – but this makes for better engineers.

Damore’s manifesto is insightful, just unintentionally so. It offers an insight into the male backlash that was one contributory factor – among many – to the rise of Donald Trump (ironically, it’s hard to think of a more neurotic, irrational, “emotional” public figure). The last century has been the battleground for a series of arduous and painful struggles for the emancipation of women and many minorities. These battles have proved so difficult because it’s involved trying to unwind centuries – millennia even – of systemic discrimination: entire societies rigged in favour of wealthy white straight men. There are people alive today who were born before women in the United States and Britain could even vote. But the gains of women, black and minority ethnic people, and LGBT people have inevitably come through chipping away at the privileges of others. And the challenge to this privilege is recast as authoritarianism – oppression even.

“Political correctness gone mad”, “you can’t say what you think any more”: these cliches underpin Damore’s manifesto, even though he refers to them fancily as Google’s “ideological echo chamber”. But he’s wrong. These movements have been liberating, not repressive. Literature was once censored for supposed “obscenity”. Questioning official religion could lead to being ostracised, even jailed in many western nations. You could be arrested as a man for winking at someone of the same gender in the street. The lived experiences of millions of people were erased from culture.

Today, men are more able to talk about their feelings and emotional problems, to take more of a role in family life, to have women as friends, and so on: though there is still so far to go in every department. The biggest killer of British men under 50, after all, is suicide: partly because of an authoritarian brand of masculinity which makes it hard to talk about feelings. The systemically suppressed talents of women and minorities are being unleashed – to the benefit of us all.

The manifesto tells us what we already knew: that a subsection of white men feel threatened and insecure. Everyone likes to feel they have achieved their lot in life on their own merit. It is a cause of profound insecurity for this to be challenged – to be forced to confront the idea you are partly where you are because life has been rigged in your favour (and what is more convenient than to appeal to biology to explain inequality? It’s fate rather than injustice, the comforting argument goes). And that’s why, incidentally, Google – like so many other companies – is disproportionately run by men from privileged backgrounds: because of odds stacked in their favour going back generations.

The struggles of women, people of colour and LGBT people have secured great advances – though they are continually imperilled, and are still far from achieving genuine equality and liberation.

Read entire article here

PS This guy probably did not know that what he said is a carefully guarded secret of management and not discussed among the employees. Telling the truth or not keeping secrets can get you in trouble in today’s corporate environment.

Posted by Teri Perticone

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