I’m about to say something I never thought I’d ever say: I’m going to let Kanye West speak for me.
Let’s have a toast for the douchebags,
Let’s have a toast for the assholes,
Let’s have a toast for the scumbags,
Every one of them that I know
Or, in the immortal words of Sir Hammerlock:
Screw it, let’s just call them bonerfarts.
Sara Wachter-Boettcher, the less farty of today’s two guest stars, wrote one of the most important articles ever posted on A List Apart, entitled Universal Design IRL. In it, she speaks to the value of inclusivity in our industry, in our conferences, and in our lives. It’s well thought and well-spoken, engaging without being confrontational. It’s a timely message that we need to hear. And it got the critical reaction it deserved, with a wide and respectable section of the web design community doing fist-bumps and congratulating Sara on her piece.
Oh, and Andy Rutledge (today’s less erudite guest star) took the opportunity to show his colors as a troll by trying to roll back the march towards an inclusive culture with shameless, well-spoken but intellectually empty flamebait.
When the community collectively and decisively stepped up to counter his hollow rhetoric, the best he could manage was passive-aggressive counterattacks that amount to the following:
1. We’re the bigots by hating on white males. Not him. (Note: I’m a white male, not a red squirrel)
2. Everyone is born equal, so what the hell are we whining for?
3. Racism and sexism have been fixed, so everything is peachy.
4. I’ve got a wife and a bi-racial son, so I’m cool.
As a quick note: Men who were trying to suppress universal suffrage had wives. They probably even loved them. That didn’t make their words and actions less sexist.
Before I continue, I want to publicly apologize for a grave error I made yesterday. While tweeting about Andy, I called him a “great designer” while still noting he’s a bigot. On further reflection, I realize that’s the “great designer” part isn’t remotely close to true. We can’t compartmentalize someone, where we say “Oh, he’s terribly racist, but not too bad a fellow”. Andy’s shown his colors enough times that we can safely say “great” doesn’t reflect what he is.
Several more experienced members of the community who have seen Andy’s tirades say he’s not worth engaging. They suggest that we shouldn’t feed trolls. They’re right in one thing: Andy is a lost cause. He’s a relic that represents a time and culture that promoted and sustained racism and sexism, that hid their policies of hate or race superiority under false claims that “Everything’s fine and if they’re suffering it’s their own fault for not trying harder.”
Despite that, we do need to speak out and publicly shame the trolls when they come out of their fetid, subterranean lairs. Here’s two concrete examples why:
#1: A young white male developer, in response to yesterday’s discussion of diversity in tech.
I’m saying difft cultures & genders favor different things. I don’t care for Pinterest or knitting. Are you upset by this?
I’m saying if white dudes like IT or CS and women don’t, people of color don’t, you are imagining barriers that don’t exist.
#2: A young woman developer, in discussion about the same issues that she faces daily when dealing with “inclusion” in the community:
I wish they’d get emails like this in their inbox every day. – It’s a mental barrier that chips away at confidence.
Andy is a lost cause. He’s just bad gas in the room. But this young man, and this young woman, represent two problems. The first feels emboldened to defend barriers in the workplace because unchallenged garbage from “established” designers like Andy supports his (observably, provably false) world view that there’s no problem. The latter feels intimidated to the point that she’s afraid to call people out when they objectify and imply rape for fear of retribution.
When you, or I, or anyone in the field takes the time to publicly call Andy a bonerfart, we help men realize that douchebaggery is just that, and we help young women realize they have allies and can speak out. We don’t need to treat bonerfarts with respect, we don’t need to take them seriously. But we need to seriously ensure that the conversations that happen aren’t being dominated by the same old, tired, ol’ fashion bigots. So when others look at what’s going on, they see that there isn’t a consensus that is hostile to diversity in our culture.
At Mindfly, three of the five developers/designers are women. They’re good at their jobs, and can kick my ass at design any day of the week. They should never have to accept lower pay, glass ceilings, unwelcome advances or be demeaned because of their gender. Here at Mindfly they aren’t. I’m proud of that.
But I want to be proud of the whole industry. And the only way to do that is call out the bonerfarts when they happen, so everyone knows that it’s not the whole industry that stinks. It’s just the ostracized assholes.
(For more on this topic, you can check out Dylan Wilbanks and I dismantling Andy’s relevancy in our newest podcast here.)