All The Shades of Unsurprised

2621849722_759ffec5d6_o
Credit: Flickr / brett jordan

We’re all outraged at Uber – again. Because it turns out that the company that tolerates sexual harassment from their drivers, and in the government they work with, also tolerates and enables it… amongst their own employees.

And yeah, this was really bad, but it’s not like this is just Uber. I’ve heard similar stories from most tech companies and every woman in tech I know has a story like that. Often more than one. We all know that HR is there to prevent the company getting sued, not anything else. The only shocker here is how blatant it was – do they know what retaliation means?

One HR rep even explicitly told me that it wouldn’t be retaliation if I received a negative review later because I had been “given an option”.

It’s safe to hate on Uber, because we know they are evil. The challenge is not tweeting something supportive when it happens at a company you hate. It’s how you react when it happens in a company that you’re invested in, to someone sitting right next to you. Many men have sat next to these things, known they were happening, and said nothing. Plenty of white women have done the same to women of color.

Perhaps we should talk about how even when the disregard for the law is flagrant, as it is here, it’s still better to write a tell-all blog post than to seek legal redress. Women know the consequences for that, and they don’t take them. Who can blame them.

And maybe we should also talk about what will happen next. Nothing. Uber chose their “high performing” men over the high performing woman, and now they are on some empty PR blitz (HR is going to investigate! LOL) but it means nothing. Maybe they will have a harder time hiring women now. I don’t think any woman I know was willing to work there anyway, so how much worse can that get, really? Uber was built by the brogrammers, for the brogrammers. This is how it’s always been. This is how it will always be.

Delete the app – great – but it’s still baked into Google maps functionality, so Uber will still be fine. VC bros don’t turn on their own kind because they continue to operate the way they always have.

And let’s also talk about the bar we hold women to in these situations. You shouldn’t have to be a white woman with a best selling book to expect to be respected at your job. You shouldn’t need to have to document every interaction with your manager or HR department.

Finally, can we please talk about why men let other men slide on these things? It’s because they identify with the dude who made a “mistake” more than the woman he harassed. It’s because they fear they too could make that “mistake” – people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. And so they let him make the “mistake” again and again and again. Please, guys, let that one go. You probably wouldn’t make that “mistake” with every woman who joined your team. I believe in your capacity to be better. This is not about you. It’s about him. There is no “high performing” manager who can’t be trusted to manage women – fully 50% of the population – without propositioning them. Understand that “we’re poly but my wife is more successful than me” is the new “my wife doesn’t understand me”. It’s possible to be poly and not be creepy AF, but this dude failed at it. Let him go. Firing people is horrible, but I could fire a manager like that and never lose a minute’s sleep over it. You can do it, too.

As an industry, we need to take a hard look at ourselves right now. We have bragged about changing the world, and we have to accept that we have – and not all for the better. The fear of entitled white men does not just prioritize the fear of their litigation over that of the women they harass, it also drives this misunderstood argument of free speech – people can say what they like, you don’t have to give them a platform*. We’ve created things to allow people of similar interests to find each other, and the Nazis, well they have found each other, and they are stronger than ever. We have erased and hidden and diminished sexual harassment and assault until it has reached the highest office. We have encoded a white supremacist patriarchy in the platforms we have built and watched it thrive in the real world whilst disclaiming responsibility.

It started inside the office – not just of the company you hate – but the ones you like, the one you work or would work for. When these kind of things happened, and nothing was done.

* Let them RTFM and build their own – all the pieces are out there – this is the beauty of OSS.

10 thoughts on “All The Shades of Unsurprised

  1. It’s absolutely embarassing that men have created a rhetoric and a reputation whereby society questions their ability to refrain from sexual harassment/assault in the presence of a woman. Men as well as women need to cease their silence as speak up when something is going awry, and society needs to listen.

Leave a Reply