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Does anyone at 37signals get sexism?

by erik on March 24th, 2010

“Smart people want to hear pushback. Not drama and emotional conflict, just healthy disagreement.” ~ Matt at the 37signals blog

This statement is problematic.  It’s part of a toolkit that men use to oppress women.  Here’s what I mean.

We have good reason to believe that women are not, in fact, more “emotional” than men.  But it is certainly true that people tend to see women as more emotional than men.

The truth is, “emotionalness bashing” is an age old technique for marginalizing women.  A man who vehemently argues against another man is engaging in “healthy disagreement,” while a woman who does the same things is being “dramatic” and “emotional”.  It’s an easy excuse.

I have no way of knowing if this is how Matt intends to use his anti-emotionality criterion for his coworkers.  But the fact that he didn’t include any mention of the history of anti-emotionality and sexism in his post suggests to me that it didn’t occur to him to include if.  And if it didn’t pop into his head while he was writing about the anti-emotionality criterion, I doubt it pops into his head when he is applying it to his coworkers.  Which means there’s a reasonable chance he does toss it around in a way that creates a generally anti-woman climate.  I can’t know for sure, but his post doesn’t give me many assurances.

I don’t know if it’s a coincidence that this is the second time Matt’s posted something this month that I found worrisomely ignorant of gender concerns.

C’mon 37signals.  Check yourselves before you wreck yourselves.


Elsewhere in the world of White Dudes Bestowing Their Opinions Upon Us, Eric S. Raymond wrote a really disappointing post today.  I wanted to respond, but I don’t know where to start.  He is so casual about using incredibly triggering language.  I’m realizing he’s in the camp of folks who think it doesn’t matter how they say things.  They think language is a kind of encoding, rather than a kind of action.  He apparently wants to cultivate a following of people who think just like him by speaking in a way that alienates everyone but his ideological identicals.

Disappointing really, that someone so smart would stop at such simplistic understandings of such rich and complex topics.

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One Comment
  1. I think it’s fairly agreeable that people should get honest, objective feedback on their ideas. That’s the message I get from that article, nothing about sexism. He’s just distinguishing between useful feedback and useless externalities. I don’t think there’s anything he could have said that wouldn’t have muddied the issue.

    “Not drama and emotional conflict, just healthy disagreement. And I’m not just talking about women when I say drama.”

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