Friday, March 28, 2014

Weekend Reading: The Good Writing about Annoying Things Edition

I have gathered a lot of really good things to read this week. As I put this post together, I realized that they were all about annoying things that shouldn't happen. Maybe that describes a lot of my link posts, actually....

Anyway, to the links:

You know how you can know something at the level of acting on it, but not ever really think about it until someone else points it out? That describes me and the way women experience public transit, until I read this story by Ann Friedman.

But if you think you'll just take Uber instead... maybe think again.

Jenn Frank wrote a very thorough, good, and patient explanation of the problem with "we should hire based on merit not (gender, race, etc)" arguments, which includes the great line: "never take gender into account when choosing the best man for the job."

Perhaps you saw an article this week about how older white men are facing discrimination in tech. It was all over my Twitter feed, but I could never get through the one everyone was tweeting out. I don't mean to imply that ageism is OK. It isn't, and it should be stopped. But I kept thinking that the older guys who are experiencing age discrimination now helped build the supposedly meritocratic tech culture that has marginalized so many people for so long. Where was their interest in fairness and cultural issues then? I really liked Ann Friedman's take on this, in which she wonders if tech has "disrupted discrimination" and points out that unlike women and people of color, no one is telling the older guys they're just doing it all wrong. They're looking at the structural issues. So I guess if this actually leads more people to recognize the structural problems in the tech culture it is a good thing... but I am still sad it took discrimination happening to older white men to get it noticed. (Yes, that's two completely unrelated articles by Ann Friedman in one links post.)

Ashe Dryden (@ashedryden) wrote a great multi-tweet thread about the issues that tech has with recognizing the value of management and the like. I've seen similar problems in biotech. It seems every company has to discover for itself that management has value. In fact, just this week, I had cause to forward this old HBR article about how Google "proved management matters" to someone. (Unfortunately, you'll have to register with HBR to read the whole thing, but registration is free.)

Staying with tech for a minute... the unfolding wage cartel story is destroying any respect I had left for Steve Jobs. Also, I wonder if any of the techies who think government does nothing but get in their way will change their views now? (My guess is not. But I can dream.)

That's enough tech stuff. I really liked this interview with Stephanie Coontz. I usually find Coontz' thoughts on work and family matters to be interesting and good.

Speaking of people saying interesting, good things: Britney Cooper says really smart things about the #CancelColbert incident.

I also found this article by Noah Berlatsky about race in Sci-Fi very interesting. 

This picture will probably make you angry.

@DNLee5 has written many great things, but this might be my favorite tweet of hers ever:

Let's end on a more hopeful note. Tragic Sandwich (@tragicsandwich) pointed me to this article from Maria Klawe, the president of Harvey Mudd College, about overcoming Imposter Syndrome.

And I love the picture in this:


  1. Some actual Asian Americans also had smart things to say about the manufactured #CancelColbert tempest: and

    Note: I am myself Asian-American and am not all offended by Colbert's satire. Neither is my Asian-American husband or my Asian-American sister. True, I can't speak for all Asian-Americans. But neither does Suey Park.

    To quote the Korean-American writers of the Deadspin article (warning, ethnic slur used in their headline):
    "We find Suey Park's reading of the joke to be, as the activists like to say, incredibly problematic; it flattens out all meaning and pretends, in effect, that there is no ironic distance between Jonathan Swift's satire and actual cannibalism. . ."

    The Britney Cooper article does make some good, subtle points. But I must say it feels odd to me, as an Asian-American, to read articles by non-Asians explaining to me why I should be offended by something I took no offense to.

    By far the saddest thing about the uproar is that it drew attention away from the actual target of Colbert's satire: the casual racism displayed toward Native Americans in our country.

    1. Thanks for the links! I had skipped that Deadspin article because the headline was so terrible, and I didn't see the New Yorker one until after I posted this.

      I didn't see the original TV segment. I thought the tweet was pretty terrible, but it was out of context. The backlash against Suey Park has been disgusting, but I guess that is just typical internet stuff these days.

      It is interesting for me as a 40-something to watch the 20-something activists. Their tactics aren't the ones I would choose... but then, my tactics haven't fixed all the problems, so who am I to judge? I've noticed it mostly with anti-sexism activism- it is almost like they expected to find a better world and are personally offended that it is so unfair. That isn't a criticism of them at all, by the way- just how it reads to me, in my more jaded position. I can't decide if this is a sign of progress or not. Certainly I never had any illusions whatsoever about sexism in the world: I never expected to be treated equally, because I have never been treated equally. I don't know.

      I also think that there is room for multiple methods and styles as we work to make the world a better place. In fact, I'd go so far as to say I think that there is a requirement for multiple methods and styles.

      So, a long rambling non-answer! Sorry about that.

      I do agree that it is a tragedy that the target of Colbert's satire is walking away from this whole dustup unscathed. I don't know what it will take to make us recognize the racism in our sports team names and fix it. And then go beyond that and fix the deeper issues.


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