Matthew G. P. Coe explains that Business Insider’s prompt disposal of Mr. Dickinson shows that the voices of those in the industry who will stand up and say, “are you kidding me?” are being paid their due attention.
2013 will go down in history as the beginning of a sea change in the technology industry. Thanks to social media, technologists of all stripes are making it known that they will no longer laugh at rape jokes at E3, they will no longer remain silent about sexual harassment at industry events, and they will no longer be confederates in misogyny.
TechCrunch’s Disrupt SF event was one of the most brazen displays of tech misogyny, leading off a series of presentations with a mobile app called “TitStare”–an app where one can upload photos of themselves, well, staring at breasts (no one ever accused the name of being misleading)–complete with mimed masturbation on stage. In the audience was Alexandra Jordan, the nine-year-old creator of SuperFunKidTime, an app made to help schedule play dates between kids. Ms Jordan now has a very vivid idea of what to look forward to in a career in technology she might be considering. Sexism in the industry is alive, but it’s not exactly what you might call “well”.
Titstare guys got a very loud applause from audience. Thank god sexism isn’t alive and well in the tech sector. SO PROUD TO HAVE MY KID HERE
— Kim (@kkjordan) September 8, 2013
TechCrunch swiftly apologised and denounced the presenters of TitStare, and amended their Disrupt policy to attempt to prevent such critical errors in judgment in the future. Whatever you may think of TechCrunch’s past behaviour, or the apology, the brogrammer quarter immediately went on the defensive, including Business Insider’s now-former CTO, Pax Dickinson. Mr Dickinson decried TechCrunch’s backtracking, tweeting, “accusing someone of ‘misogyny’ over some low-grade sexism means you owe another apology.”
A brief review of his Twitter history shows, as Salon discovered, that this is hardly an isolated incident for Mr Dickinson. His misogynistic attitude toward the technology industry went on display for all to see, culminating in his forced resignation from BI this morning. While social media, and the Web at large, provide misogyny with an unprecedented platform, Business Insider’s prompt disposal of Mr Dickinson shows that the voices of men and women in the industry who will stand up and say, “are you kidding me?” are being paid their due attention.
This incident is only one of many high-profile incidents, and is a glimmer of the dark misogynistic underbelly of the technology industry–if TitStare is what two developers thought was appropriate to announce at an industry event, what is being said behind closed doors? But seeing both high- and low-profile technologists respond to this event with warranted disgust, and seeing a high-profile company respond appropriately, I have hope that technologists of all stripes will find the strength they need to stand up for the victims of these statements. Feminism in technology needs men and women to point out this behaviour when it happens, and we can take this as an example of what we can do–and those who make these statements should take it as an example of what they should expect.