Tuesday, April 10, 2018

We Weren't Really Arguing About Data Anyway

One of the things that frustrates me anytime some guy writes a company memo about how women are biologically inferior for some tasks, some new author shows up to explain that men or boys don't read because too many of the books out there have girl cooties, or to ask if black romance authors even exist and write great things at rates similar to their non-black counterparts, is that then we spend a lot of time going for the data.  
Like, actually, back when we thought coding was boring secretarial work, the field was almost entirely women.  So, actually, women and girls read more by a lot, but books about boys and men are still over-represented when it comes to awards.  And maybe, just like we kept arguing that girls and women can read about boys and men, maybe the reverse should be just as true.  And yeah, there are black romance authors and yes they write books worthy of awards.  
We aren't really talking about data.  The dude who wrote that corporate memo, I swear to you has no data to back this up.  And when you listen to TV show making folks say, well, now some networks really want you to try to cast diversely and it's super hard because their just aren't good non-white actors, that's BS too.  I'm sure there are crappy non-white actors.  But I've seen plenty of crappy or mediocre white actors get roles and no one blames the depth of the casting pool on that.  So, again, these are pretend arguments.  I don't want to say don't show up with data.  Because there is someone who didn't know that coding used to be predominately female.  There is someone who didn't know that girls, especially black girls, read more, if we really want to talk about representation.  There are people who maybe didn't know some romance was written by black people.  But remember it isn't really about facts.  
The patriarchy and white supremacy are big strong systems that have only survived this long by convincing people there must be some biological differences that also affect the brain.  There must be some reason.  The fact that the first tool in their bag is bigotry isn't really a surprised.  We are all surrounded by this.  It takes work to unpack it.  Because let's face it, there's no way that this is the first sexist thing that memo dude did.  The women he worked with were, I'm guessing, only shocked by the overtness of the memo.  They already knew he thought they were inferior.  Just like John McEnroe can look at everything Serena Williams has done and still, be certain, that he played better, harder, and faster than she did.  The data does not support this on any level.  But that wasn't a discussion about data.  That was really about McEnroe and his feelings.  Even good old NPR did a piece on the lack of black writers winning RITAs and interviewed...a non-black writer to talk about it.  
And that gets me to the final part of this.  If you want to play the mountain molehill game and pretend that memo dude just wrote down some thoughts.  That every male author who swears they are saving some portion of books for the poor boys who can't find books about boys to read. That every guy who swears it's ridiculous for him to be fired if he maybe accidentally grabbed someone's ass at a professional event one time.  It's never one time.  It isn't.  (We could also argue that making your co-workers feel unsafe one time is enough, but that is a whole other discussion.)  You get to a place where you feel cool saying and doing these things because lots of time when you do, others nod.  They smile.  And you may miss that half of them were gritting their teeth, or sucking it up, because the landscape is littered with people who reported these things to the powers that be and watched nothing happen.  Or were retaliated against.   You get to a place where you feel like you've addressed the diversity problem because you talked to an author of color, even though they weren't of the group you supposedly wanted to talk about the discrimination of.  Close enough.  That's not a data problem.  It's a basic societal problem.