This is a guest post by Meagan Waller. Meagan Waller is a Ruby developer and resident apprentice at 8th Light. She tweets at @meaganewaller and blogs at Meaganwaller.com
TRUCEConf is a two-day conference with the purpose of setting aside differences and creating an inclusive and open place where we can put an end to the gender war in tech. TRUCE stands for trust, respect, unity, compassion, and equality, which are elements to a healthy community.
I really don’t doubt that the Truceconf organisers have good intentions, however I think that when you think of feminism in tech as a war between the genders you’re missing the point. It’s not a war, and it’s not right to pit the two sides against each other like there is an equal playing field and like we can just talk it out.
Frankly, I’m insulted by the conference. The organizers need to reconsider: whether that is changing the scope of project, bringing on people who actually have experience and education in dealing with this, and can we please talk about how the people who are most educated on this are saying this is terrible, and the majority of the people who are on board with this are male. I don’t ever want my activism to make my oppressors comfortable, and I’m not sorry about that. And like I said, I’m sure Elizabeth and the organizers have good intentions, I have no doubt that they do, but this screams “White-Lean-In-Feminism” that caters to the patriarchy instead of dismantling it, it’s “fuck you, I got mine” feminism, and it’s toxic and harmful. However, good intentions don’t always yield positive results, as we’ve seen.
Starting with the Tone Arguments and the way TruceConf’s message statement, and their writing on their page seems to trivialize the importance of this. They continue talk about anger and how we’re striving to have conversations without anger, and even how dangerous anger is. Justified anger isn’t dangerous, and yes, it makes people uncomfortable, it makes people aware of their privilege and it’s hard, but ignoring that and even saying it’s bad is just the straw man angry feminist argument that gets thrown in our faces, and it’s so frustrating. Criticizing people who are working for equality, who get angry sometimes, how can you look around and not be angry? I’m pissed off constantly, I am tired and fed up of being kicked when I’m already down and being told I’m lucky for the experience. This is tone argument derailing 101, and it distracts from the real issue, it really does.
TruceConf, however good intentioned it is, trivializes and dismisses the work that’s been done, it’s insulting to me because they think I’ve failed because of how I’ve gone about it. As if no one has ever thought of just being nice, as if we could just talk this out and everything would be okay. If it wasn’t for Ashe Dryden and Julie Pagano’s and many other of the influential feminists in the tech world I would’ve never became a feminist. I felt uncomfortable by their anger, and I remember even unfollowing both of them within a week when I first started following them because of all my unexamined white privilege, but I’m fundamentally changed now, and anger, real justified anger, did that.
When we set this up like it’s a war, we are missing the entire point. That’s a false equivalence, a space with abusive victims and abusers and abuse apologists, and a space with rapist apologist, and rape victims, and maybe even rapists, does not make for a safe space. To say that those who speak out against oppression, and rapists, and abusive have equal platforms, and should have an equal voice in the discussion as those who work to perpetuate and do the harassing, and abusing, and raping is wrong. Plain and simple. How can you say that speaking out against abuse is the same as abusing? How can you say they should have an equal voice in that discussion.
There is no way that will go okay. I am SCARED for this to happen, I am scared for this to become a thing. I am scared that the organizers won’t listen to the feedback from those who actively work to dismantle the current structure. This isn’t a war between two equal, consenting sides, this is about the systematic oppression of women, PoC, LGBTQIA folks, disabled, and all the intersections that exist in those realms. Why would the people with privilege sit down and talk it out, and just agree to give up their privilege? The culture is purely invested in maintaining the status quo, and this conference doesn’t break any barriers, it doesn’t do anything groundbreaking, or anything that society doesn’t already do. This conference caters to the status quo, this conference is something the patriarchy can (and has) gotten behind.
When we don’t acknowledge this systematic and institutionalized imbalance we are just a cog in the machine. The idea of a truce isn’t realistic, as awesome as that could be. The only way to rid tech of sexism, racism, ageism, ableism is to dismantle the system that’s stacked against equality.