FML, or Why Scott Adams Personifies My Industry

Monday, April 18, 2011
I've been following the recent Scott Adams debacle with some bemusement. After all, I work in the same industry that Adams started in, I'm an engineer, and when I first joined the civilian work force in 1996 his observations resonated with me.

But now, as my friend Eric notes, I just think he's a choad.

In case you haven't been following the hubbub, the short version is that Adams made some extremely tone-deaf and misogynistic remarks about how women should be treated the same way society treats the mentally retarded. I'm not exactly sure of the point of those remarks (because, quite frankly, Adams' ideas aren't interesting enough for me to find out), but he then subsequently went down the sock-puppet road in order to defend his "certified genius" (insert gagging noises here). He then tried to excuse his sock-puppetry by implying those who didn't get the joke weren't very bright (insert barfing noises here).

Now I don't give a good goddamn about Adams, his backwards opinions about women in the workplace, his cynical cartoon empire, or his sloppy thinking on pretty much anything of substance. But the latest hoopla regarding his sock-puppet did provide a small revelation - Adams perfectly personifies how women are treated in my industry.

I've been bitching a lot lately about the lack of diversity in my industry. During last week's training session, I was once again the only woman in the place, just as I'm the only woman on my team, the only woman in 90% of the meetings or training sessions I attend, and have no women in my chain of command. While I'm getting a little tired of fighting the good fight on this issue, I do still wonder why things remain in such a sad state of affairs - why, exactly, is telecom such a bastion of middle-aged white guys, and how does the industry as a whole not see what a poor business practice this is?

The answer, my friends, is the exact reason Scott Adams is such a perfect choad. The culture in which I work sees women as nothing more than overgrown children to be tolerated to our faces but condescended to, belittled and ridiculed with a wink and a nod behind our backs. And when we call foul on such douchebaggery, we're told we just don't "get it," obviously because our ladybrains are incapable of seeing The Big Picture.

I'm not necessarily attributing this attitude to specific individuals. It's extremely unlikely that every man in a leadership position in telecom is a misogynistic jackass without a clue about how feminism is also dude-ism. But the culture is broken. Like Adams' condescending asshattery about how the rest of us are too stupid to understand his lofty view of gender equality in this country (and his sock-puppetry, evidently), telecom culture implies that the lack of women in our industry is somehow our fault, rather than the result of short-sightedness on the part of our senior leaders.

Alex, I'll take "Blaming the Victim" for $1000.00.

8 comments:

Eric said...

Interesting insight, Janiece, and also a pretty deplorable portrait of an industry. If telecom is full of Scott Adamses... well... damn.

Steve Buchheit said...

Oh look, a Daily Double.

They say we're in the 3rd feminist revolution. Frankly, I don't think the first one is done, yet.

Anne C. said...

I think I love Dan Solomon. Thanks for pointing out his article. I think because most men don't talk about it much (and I can understand why, I feel a similar hesitancy talking about racism or multiculturalism) I forget that some of them actually do see and understand what women experience and don't dismiss it as the victim's fault.
I laughed at his closing remark about why using the term "feminism" is appropriate, though I will continue to say I'm an egalitarian.

And Janiece, I'm sorry you're having a lot of face time with bigotry. I'm fortunate that in my male dominated profession, I'm lucky enough to work at a woman-owned business and to work with smart, capable women all the time. (Granted, there are a couple who could pick up their game a bit, but that's a matter of youth and inexperience rather than stupidity.)
((((((((((HUGS)))))))))))

Mavro said...

It's my experience that in ANY industry that has something to do with engineering, electronics, or software, women are usually frowned upon. For some reason it's still a male universe. Which doesn't make any sense because it's also my experience that women (generally speaking) approach technical problems from an angle most men don't think of. And get things sorted. In short, take the toys from the boys ;-)

Janiece said...

Welcome, Mavro.

I don't have much experience with any industry but the military and telecom, both of which are pretty male centric.

Carol Elaine said...

Interestingly enough, while men are still in the majority at JPL, there are a lot of women in engineering and science here and - at least in my direct experience - they are considered equals. Then again, I think the women around here would eviscerate any men who would dare look down upon them.

I'm not saying that's true for the entire lab, but it's definitely true for my little nook.

Then again, Richard Feynman's sister Joan has been a key part of JPL as an astrophysicist and, though she's officially retired, she still does a lot of work here.

I do realize, though, how unusual such an attitude is when it comes to fields that have been traditionally male-centric.

Helen Rae said...

I get the same crap being in the Army... I hear all these guys bitch and moan about how females shouldn't be in the field, and females shouldn't do this, or do that.... but damn aren't they glad to see me when I'm there with the Morphine and cleaning them up (Im a nurse). Whatever.. I do what what I do because I have respect for what they do, the LEAST they could do is at least let me do that in peace!

Janiece said...

Welcome, Helen Rae, and thank you for your service.

I found a similar attitude in the Navy - "women shouldn't serve on ships/subs/field units, blah, blah, blah." Whatever is right.

It's never easy being on the leading edge of sea change, but doing it twice in one lifetime, in two different fields, is making me tired. Thanks for stopping by and reminding me why it's important that we fight the good fight.