I listen to a podcast called TLDR. They did a story called Quiet, Wadwa. It was essentially a conversational interview with Amelia Greenhall, who wrote a blog post called Quiet Ladies, Wadwa is Speaking.
Vivek Wadwa is a researcher who is regularly quoted in articles about women in Tech. Vivek is a man. He is very in favor of diversity in tech jobs. He’s written books on the subject. Except when an excerpt was published in the Huff post it was written by two women and it’s Wadwa’s picture and name on the byline. But you know…these things happen. Publishing decisions apparently.
The problem, of course, is that the media and corporations are going to a man for information about how to get women into tech jobs. Ironic. Greenhall found it annoying. And so she and Meredith Haggerty discuss it. Haggerty never interviewed Wadwa for his response.
A shit storm was brewed after the podcast and Wadwa cried foul after he got lots of mean tweets and facebook crankiness. So they took down the podcast and interviewed him.
He probably should have just shut up. Haggerty just lets him bury himself in a defensive whine. He’s angry and butt hurt. Because people have been mean.
He has in fact been on the receiving end of abuse commonly received by just about every women who acts in a very public way on the internet. He doesn’t seem to recognize it. He’s just trying to help, why is everyone not seeing that?
He finds it deeply unfair, but doesn’t get the irony that he is experiencing just a taste and for a short time of the sort of abuse that gets heaped on women in this position regularly when they speak on issues.
Wadwa is representative of good intentions in a system that can’t support them. Good intentions don’t change his inability to truly understand the subtle complexity of what a woman experiences in her daily interactions with the world. He, possibly innocently, invited a woman he was in a twitter argument with to have a private chat with him. Invited women he didn’t know to come to his office and discuss the issue privately. Those kinds of things are laden with all kinds of issues for women. None of them are present between two men. And he apparently doesn’t know it.
Being an advocate for women’s issues doesn’t mean you have to be a woman, but if you aren’t, you shouldn’t be the public spokesman.
TLDRs follow up podcast on him is symptomatic of a system that is squeezing women into corners and then telling them they are not accurately measuring the corner angles when women complain that there is no way out of the corner. Wadwa is a classic example of angle measurement. He wants to discuss ways that he was wronged and so now the story is about that. The larger problem is getting out of the corner. And whenever we drive issue by an example, we lose sight of the bigger problem while we all discuss angle measurements in this corner of it.
The more women allow ourselves to be dragged into measuring angles in each unfair scenario, the easier it is for us to be kept in the corners. We can only lose because its not about the particular angle, its about getting out of the corner. So that even if we miraculously emerge victorious from a particular issue battle, we are still in the same fucking corner.
The examples need to be there. They need to be bricks in the path we walk out of the corner. But the bricks of a path are many and no particular brick is the one that makes the path work or fail. Its about many bricks making a structure. Not about each individual brick.
Which is not as interesting and a whole lot harder to sell.
2 thoughts on “The System not the Example”
It’s aalways a bit strange when a man becomes a spokesman for female issues.
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Women continue to be maltreated around the globe, even here in the states, so all advocates for change are welcome and needed. But, I agree, a spokesperson for a cause is better received if she is lives the cause and wants to make a change. A good example is Malala Yousafzai who is a terrific spokesperson not only for the maltreatment of Muslim girls and women, but all women.
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