An Apology

I made a mistake in posting a women-hostile picture on Twitter yesterday. This is an apology. But first, let’s start with a recap.

Yesterday I posted this tweet:

I first saw the picture on /r/funny. And I tweeted the picture after a brief view. I mainly tweeted the comic because I believe that politicking identity issues is generally a waste of time* Politicking of any issue is generally a waste of time, in my opinion. . I had neglected to notice that it came from @AntiFemComics.

This morning, a shitstorm ensued. I woke up and the first notification was from Nick Coghlan:

Upon reading that, I went and re-read the comic. I realize the horror that I have in fact misread the comic. And the issue snowballed on. This blog post will stand as an official apology from me.

What I Believe (And Not)

Before I begin, because I like my communiques to be clear (and I would like to assert again that Twitter is in fact not a good medium to share ideas, as I have written in The Bane of Communicating Succinctly), I would like to re-assert here, what I believe in and what I do not, regarding this issue.

These are the things I believe in:

  • I believe in equity (the subtle difference between equality, fairness and equity has been covered in Just Fair) amongst individuals. To me, personally, it does not matter what an individual identifies as. An equitable treatment is a basic human right for all individuals.
  • I believe that there is an inequality in society, given any breakdown of demographics. This is to say, you can break down a population into subpopulations by gender, race, sexual orientation (amongst other things), and there is an inequity amongst the subpopulations* This is in fact a very curious mathematical property of population dynamics. There are various philosophical schools of thought as to whether this “natural order” can be disrupted. I am of the optimistic opinion that it can be. .
  • I believe it is the moral and fair thing to do to address inequality in society, and if possible, solve it.
  • I believe it is imperative that we as a species must solve this issue if we are to attain a higher level of civilization.
  • I believe that the solution is through economics (specifically through the manipulation of incentives), and multi-generational educational efforts.
  • I believe – in the structure vs agency problem – that both structure and agency does play a role in reducing inequity. However, given that structure and agency are both intertwined, I believe that the only way forwards is a bottom-up approach, which is to say, start at the individual level.
  • I believe that the inequity issues are multi-generational problems and cannot be solved within a single generation (the math does not support that idea).

These are the things I do not believe in:

  • I do not believe that the way forward is through politicking of identity issues, because it’s a short-sighted thing to do, and will only serve as a distraction to actually solving the problem* As a side note, I think raising awareness is a way forwards, and politicking and raising awareness are two very separate kinds of actions. In my opinion politicking has more to do with blame than anything. .
  • I do not believe that dismantling structures is the way forwards to solving the inequity issue. I will admit that it is a technique that may be useful in tackling institutional biases, however, from a social structures point of view, there isn’t enough information for me to make an informed judgment.
  • I do not believe in quota-based affirmative actions. This is partly due to personal experiences growing up in a country where the colour of my skin determined my options. This is a personal bias of mine.

How I Fucked Up, And An Apology

Given that I have enumerated in what I believe in and not, I would be highly appreciative if you would give me a chance to explain how I fucked up with the tweet.

I personally am not very happy with politicizing actions. With regard to gender equality (or any equity related issues), I have always placed this negative feelings at the more post-modernist/softer-science crowd – mainly because they’re easy targets. And really it’s not difficult to see how I come to the conclusion when people like Luce Irigaray make statements like “E = mc² is a sexed equation…”, which is quite certainly politicizing inequity issues in physics* protip: math and physics equations has no notion of gender. Stop trying to make gender in math happen Gretchen. .

This is entirely my fault, as I was generalizing an entire group of people into an idealogue at which I could project my dislike on.

As a result, I thought the picture was pretty funny. It takes a jab at the gender studies people – and the fact that they’re waaaaaay more vocal about promoting their cause than the STEM people ever are* I can’t for an instance recall ever being asked to join STEM courses/clubs in my life ever. I just went where the quiet shy people went . Another reason why I thought the picture was funny-because-it’s-real was that there really aren’t enough female role models in the STEM field, whereas there are more female role models in the softer-sciences fields.

Of course, Nick’s tweet this morning made me realize that I have in fact read the comic wrong. Through my inherent biases, I thought that the gender studies stall was promoting more than the STEM field stall. Upon re-reading it, I was wrong. And because of that, the picture is no longer funny.

The picture IS hostile to women. And I made a mistake by posting that. It doesn’t matter if I thought it to be funny at the time. I made the mistake of posting a very women-hostile image. I am sorry.

On Community Leadership

I am the co-organizer of Sydney Python, a very large group of close to 2000 people. By posting the picture, I have inadvertently advertised that SyPy is a female hostile community. I would like to make a correction on that.

I very much agree with Russell here:

A community leader should always be well aware of public statements, even when made from a personal capacity. Again, I would like to re-iterate that while I’m a believer in equity for all individuals, I quite dislike the politicking that goes with the issues. I made an error in judgment in posting that picture on Twitter, because I misread the comic. For that I am sorry. I did not mean to be un-inclusive, both from a personal life and a community leader point of view.

I would also like to extend an apology to the Sydney Python community who have been offended by the post on Twitter. Sydney Python is a very accepting and inclusive community, and we love diversity. For the past 4 months of Sydney Python meetups, we’ve also included PyLadies, a subcommunity with a focus on helping women become active participants and leaders in Sydney Python. It’s basically an awesome support network for women who through the normal social structures feel Othered by the otherwise male-oriented community. The people are awesome.

What Happens Next?

I will not be deleting the tweet. I made a mistake. I fucked up. It’s my cross to bear* not literally. I’m highly irreligious . This blog post will be the one that corrects that. I was wrong, and deleting the tweet will not undo my mistake. Instead, I offer my apology in this blog post, accompanied with a mostly useless reason (which I really hope will not be seen as an excuse) of why I had posted the tweet initially to begin with.

Moving forwards, I still look forward to making Sydney Python an even more inclusive community. This past year has been an awesome year for women in Sydney Python. We’ve seen participation rates increase year on year by 200%, and the number of women speakers too have increased by 200%. While it’s not as high as I would like it to be, I do think it’s a good start. I hope to see the numbers increase as the years go by.

I’ll also probably be tweeting a lot less. Again, it’s not the perfect medium for communicating highly complex ideas.

In closing, I must say once again I am sorry for offending anyone. It’s my personal stance that inequity is an important issue, and whilst I may have some different ideas about how to tackle the problem, I most definitely think that inequity between any subdivision of a population is definitely a problem, and it is a moral imperative to fix it.

EDIT: Misspelled Nick Coghlan’s name. Thanks to Eugene van den Bulke

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