spz: Farley of Kimberley's Castle (Default)
spz ([personal profile] spz) wrote2013-06-21 09:22 am

filter bubbles, individual experience, and sexism in IT

Let me start with a confession: I tend to treat "stupid" people I interact with badly, if I run into their intellectual limitations. And that's even though I am fully aware that not being intelligent does not make you a bad person, and that that feature is not something people chose for themselves. My gut reaction is that if they don't get it (no matter what "it" is), they must be failing to pay attention, so I get testy (and that's not very smart of me, no matter the cognitive ability present).

This reaction is due partially to myself living in a real-life filter bubble; I've studied physics and worked in server IT since. The people I really interact with tend to be in the top 5% regarding intelligence, and my idea of what "normal" looks like therefore is seriously skewed.

Something that has annoyed me for a long time now was men in a computing context treating me as a moron until I had figuratively hit them over the head a few times, and some even needing occasional reminders. "Women are either stupid or crazy, or both" is a sentiment I have heard all too often. The angry if uncharitable reply to that is that what they really said was that no sane and smart woman would stand their company long enough so they could get to know her.

Lately I have been considering the possibility that those men who believe that men are so much smarter than women (even if they have learned to not say that aloud, many show it in their behavior) aren't actually speaking and acting from their experience, and if the angry retort was possibly literally true: They start out in a field with few enough women that they meet no woman peers, and the only women they interact with are in crappy "supportive" jobs that aren't paid enough, nor interesting enough, to attract women who can do better. The afflicted men then either really don't go out much or act towards women in a manner that is repulsive to people with an IQ above room temperature, which keeps intelligent women who have any self-respect away from them and thus reinforces their belief that women as a class were stupid, or basket cases.

What do you think? Is the high number of otherwise fairly smart men in IT who are decidedly sexist a result of a self-reinforcing real-life filter bubble? Or do you have a better theory?

It's a good theory. I don't have a better one. I'm a man in a computing context, so my first thought is to inspect myself and see what I'm an example of.

As anyone with a conscience would, I like to think I'm not terribly sexist. Let's posit for a moment that I'm right about that. Even so, I'm not sure exactly what I'd attribute it to. For as long as I can remember, back to schoolboy days, I've just always been terribly pleased to discover that someone is smart. (Let's also posit that we don't need to define what "smart" is, for the moment.) Was it how I was raised? My mother is strong and well educated, my father is as reasonable a person as exists in the world, and there was certainly a strong emphasis on the intellect. Was it a side effect of my social struggles as a "smart" kid, such that I learned to accept humane interactions with anyone who would offer them? Maybe. Am I more sexist than I like to think I am? I hope not, but it's possible.

In any case, I think the easiest way for someone like me to not think sexist thoughts or perform sexist actions is to arrive at a sort of pseudo-naivete wherein a person isn't an instantiation of some categories, but rather simply a person. This frame of mind makes it possible to be willing to receive whatever they offer and to wait until after some interaction with someone to modulate one's expectations of them. I say "easiest", but of course it first requires a long slog through some hard work on one's self. At least it did in my case! But I have found it helps me deal humanely with all sorts of people, including the "stupid" ones. Whether I'm as successful in this regard as I imagine, or whether my approach scales, I can't say.
laughingrat: A detail of leaping rats from an original movie poster for the first film of Nosferatu (Default)

[personal profile] laughingrat 2013-06-22 07:46 pm (UTC)(link)
Well, if they're starting from an assumption that women are stupid and/or crazy and have to be coaxed out of it by contact with exceptional women, then they're just garden variety sexist bigots whose base presumption is that women are inferior. At that point, the best they deserve is to be written off and ignored.

I will point out that lots of really intelligent, lively, good people wind up in "support" jobs. Lots and lots. Not everyone has the kind of social opportunities that are important for getting higher-paying jobs, or for having their work recognized so they can quickly move into more respected jobs in the company. If someone--for instance, the men in question--is assuming that anyone in a non-professional or support position is intellectually inferior, then he's a classist bigot as well.
reddragdiva: (Default)

[personal profile] reddragdiva 2013-06-28 11:03 pm (UTC)(link)
I have long observed that those men who hold in the context of relationships that all women are crazy are those with terrible taste in women, which is of course a filter bubble, so your observation is entirely plausible.