When I climbed on a plane to Scandinavia a few weeks ago, everybody was rolling their eyes about something I’m going to call the Googlebro Manifesto, written and sent around to his co-workers by a male software engineer who work(ed) at Google and was feeling all peevish about the existence of “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” by which he appears to mean “Google’s moderate steps to increase diversity and fairness in the workplace.” Specifically, diversity and fairness as they apply to women. What if, Googlebro wants to know, women are underrepresented in tech, not because of any pervasive cultural bias, but just, you know, because chicks can’t code & stuff?
So, as part of my “McJulie reads dumb misogynist stuff so you don’t have to” efforts, I spent some time while I was in transit breaking down his arguments.
Like a lot of modern bigots, Googlebro presents himself as being very intellectually daring to suggest that all the prejudices of the past are based on objective fact, and every systemic inequality is merely a reflection of these facts.
You know, like nobody’s ever thought to make that claim before.
In fact, none of his screed is novel. Every single point comes from a selection of well-worn misogynist and racist tropes, many of them dissected and mocked at We Hunted the Mammoth, including those unchanged since suffrage days and those that might as well be phrenology.
1. Standard disclaimer/lampshade/don’t call me a sexist
I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes.
The rhetorical intent is obviously to establish the speaker as a representative of the “reasonable middle,” (the “middle” is always presumed to be reasonable) by building strawman antagonists on either side of the issue under discussion.
“I’m not one of those extremists who denies there is such a thing as sexism. But I’m also not one of those extremists who thinks sexism actually exists.”
The writer’s claim that he doesn’t “endorse using stereotypes” is pretty hilarious, given his view of the differences between men and women is nothing but lazy stereotypes. What does he think stereotypes are, anyway? And what in his mind constitutes “using” them?
2. Big words, dumb ideas
When addressing the gap in representation in the population, we need to look at population level differences in distributions.
This sentence is a perfect example of superficially “intellectual” language used to express a non-thought. The population of what? Gap between what? Distributions of what?
When misogynists are trying to sound “reasonable” they often take this route, avoiding clear falsifiable statements such as “women are less skilled than men in math and symbolic logic” and instead make vague statements that work as pointers toward the real statement. Sympathetic readers eagerly fill in the gaps (Why yes, of course, obviously, fewer women are in technical jobs only because fewer women have the necessary skills to start with) and unsympathetic readers just wonder what the hell you’re on about.
3. Hey, I’m just telling it like it is
If we can’t have an honest discussion about this, then we can never truly solve the problem.
An “honest” discussion in this context always means “a discussion where I get to say things that you find offensive and stupid without getting challenged.”
4. Dog whistles/oh poor me I am so misunderstood
Psychological safety is built on mutual respect and acceptance, but unfortunately our culture of shaming and misrepresentation is disrespectful and unaccepting of anyone outside its echo chamber.
“Psychological safety” — meaning what, exactly? (Googles it) Okay, it appears to be a business-speak catchphrase related to team-building. But Googling also brings up an article about “The Dark Side of Psychological Safety,” which indicates that it’s not reasonable to use this concept without applying other ethical considerations.
So, his point appears to be, “in the interest of making people who are not me more comfortable, Google has made people who ARE me less comfortable, and I am upset about that.” Duly noted, Googlebro, but why do you expect other people to care?
5. The lurkers support me in email
Despite what the public response seems to have been, I’ve gotten many personal messages from fellow Googlers expressing their gratitude for bringing up these very important issues which they agree with but would never have the courage to say or defend.
Pretty obvious ploy: everybody who hasn’t said anything against me publicly is secretly on my side!
Which, incidentally, is a good reason to speak up when you’re not on somebody’s side.
6. Only other people are biased
Google’s political bias has equated the freedom from offense with psychological safety, but shaming into silence is the antithesis of psychological safety.
“Google’s political bias” obviously means those areas where Googlebro disagrees with Google. Brodude gets to have “ideas” and “opinions” while everyone else is merely “biased.” The passive voice here is intended to obscure his point a little bit, so let’s try putting the actors back in: “Google’s political bias has equated the freedom from [my] offense [of others] with psychological safety, but shaming [me] into silence is the antithesis of [my] psychological safety.”
So, basically, he’s upset that people want him to shut up about this stuff?
7. At last, the thesis/might as well be phrenology
Differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don’t have 50% representation of women in tech and leadership.
After several paragraphs of peevish self-justification, at last we get to the thesis — the thing people want him to shut up about — which is: there are innate, inborn, inevitable differences between men and women that entirely account for the lack of proportionate female representation in certain areas of technology employment, therefore, the lack of representation is not a problem to be solved, therefore, any effort to solve this non-problem itself constitutes a problem. (See 8 below).
He hedges, by saying “may in part explain” but he obviously thinks these differences are, in fact, the explanation, because otherwise why write such a screed?
If your only point is that maybe such differences exist, which might explain differences in outcome — well, you know, maybe the differences in patterns of the bumps on one’s head explains differences in personality and intellectual capacity. Hard to know for sure.
8. !!!!!!!!REVEEERRRSSSEE DISCRIMINATION!!!!!
Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business.
Helping other people = discrimination against me, Googlebro. Also, I assume it’s bad for business, but I’m not going to bother backing that up in any way. Bros don’t evidence, bro.
9. Liberalism is just a political bias/the world is too liberal/conservatives are so brave
Considering that the overwhelming majority of the social sciences, media, and Google lean left, we should critically examine these prejudices.
This notion, that an extremely generalized and centrist liberalism — usually regarding the general desirability of things like civil rights and equality of opportunity — is leftist or inherently political has dominated the right for a while now, as kind of a framing idea, an “everybody knows” truism.
But fairness can only be inherently of the left if unfairness is inherently of the right — and is that really where conservatives what to go with this? I mean, in the era of Trumpianity, things like anti-fascism and basic human decency seem to keep getting called “leftist” and “liberal,” which leads inescapably to the conclusion that conservatives must therefore be pro-fascist and anti-human-decency.
If that’s where you want to go, so be it.
But also, don’t act surprised when other people have no interest in listening to your terrible pro-fascist and anti-decency ideas.
10. Both sides/stacking the deck/why no, I’m not a Nazi, why do you ask?
• Compassion for the weak
• Disparities are due to injustices
• Humans are inherently cooperative
• Change is good (unstable)
• Respect for the strong/authority
• Disparities are natural and just
• Humans are inherently competitive
• Change is dangerous (stable)
Neither side is 100% correct and both viewpoints are necessary for a functioning society or, in this case, company.
Notice first the implicit bias in the very concept that there are two equal, opposite, balanced sides, both inevitable and necessary for a functioning society.
Second, the writer’s own biases are pretty glaring here, given that the “left biases” describe a liberal as stereotyped by conservatives, while the “right biases” describe how conservatives like to see themselves. (“Pragmatic,” for example, is not a word I would apply to anyone currently on the political right. But I know from years of reading George Will that people on the right like to see themselves that way.)
However, there’s something extra-troubling about this particular list. Note the first “matched set” of comparisons: “compassion for the weak” balanced against “Respect for the strong.” That’s — uh — kind of — exactly how you would expect a fascist to express that particular thought. No liberal I know would ever characterize protecting the vulnerable as protecting the weak. That’s offensive in itself.
No wonder people keep telling this guy to shut up.
11. Phrenology 101
On average, men and women biologically differ in many ways.
On the one hand, duh. And on the other hand, are you going to talk about actual biological differences between men and women? Or are you just going to talk out of your ass and pretend it’s science?
12. Phrenology 102/Begging the question
Women, on average, have more: Openness directed towards feelings and aesthetics rather than ideas.
Women generally also have a stronger interest in people rather than things
Yep, ass-talking as “science.”
A little lesson: the thing that makes it “science” isn’t big words, measuring devices, theories, or a dogged insistence that you’re being “scientific” when you say thus-and-such. The thing that makes it science is the application of the scientific method, and its principles of observation, evidence, and analysis.
So if you’re going to present some stupid-sounding idea as “scientific,” you have to provide evidence for it. And that means you have to define your terms fairly carefully. You have to be precise. A statement like “women have more openness directed towards feelings and aesthetics rather than ideas” isn’t a scientific hypothesis. “Openness” is not a precisely defined, measurable characteristic, nor are “feelings,” “aesthetics” or “ideas.”
“Women on average have greater color acuity than men” might be a true statement, for example, and you might theorize that this would incline women toward careers as painters. But if you look at painting throughout history, it’s kind of a boy’s club just like everything else.
Which strongly suggests that institutional sexism plays a much larger role in “who gets to be a great painter” than a partly biologically determined trait like color acuity.
12. And now let’s try for an own goal
Neuroticism (higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance).This may contribute to the higher levels of anxiety women report on Googlegeist
Or, you know, maybe a female-hostile culture contributes to women reporting a higher level of anxiety? Just a little thought here. I mean, Occam’s Razor and all. As long as we’re trying to be open to new ideas and avoid the “echo chamber” and all that. Maybe, just maybe, if women are anxious at work, it might be caused by their working conditions?
13. Here, let me cite some phrenology textbooks.
as “society becomes more prosperous and more egalitarian, innate dispositional differences between men and women have more space to develop and the gap that exists between men and women in their personality becomes wider.”
I don’t know what “studies” he’s citing here, but it sounds like nonsense to me. A more egalitarian society exaggerates personality differences between men and women? That’s not only counter-intuitive, it goes against all the examples I can think of, when it comes to more and less egalitarian societies as they exist in the world today. I mean, if his statement were correct, you would expect Scandinavians to have the highest difference between male and female personalities, and Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan to have the least.
Which, uh, is not actually the case. (She says, writing from Scandinavia.)
14. Pity the poor coal mining man
We always ask why we don’t see women in top leadership positions, but we never ask why we see so many men in these jobs.
Just take a moment to marvel at that sentence.
These positions often require long, stressful hours that may not be worth it if you want a balanced and fulfilling life.
Or… you know, might be less do-able if you have to take care of children or worry about housework. The thing about jobs requiring “long, stressful hours” is that somebody still has to do the cooking and the laundry and all that. The “second shift” is a very real drain on women’s productivity and mental health, which men largely are not only spared from, but downright oblivious to.
Status is the primary metric that men are judged on, pushing many men into these higher paying, less satisfying jobs for the status that they entail.
Higher pay = less satisfying? That’s a neat trick. So, men supposedly want status, not money, they just happen to get all the money and power by pursuing status? How conveeeeenient.
Anyway, Googlebrodude my man, I, personally, make this promise to you: I will always judge you not on status, not on pay, not on looks, not on clothing, house or car, not even on your taste in food or music — but on whether or not you’re a decent human being.
And I have to say, you’re not exactly killing it, here.
Maybe you should focus less on status and more on decency? Just a thought.
Note, the same forces that lead men into high pay/high stress jobs in tech and leadership cause men to take undesirable and dangerous jobs like coal mining, garbage collection, and firefighting, and suffer 93% of work-related deaths.
This is classic MRA rhetoric, where we’re supposed to feel sorry for men because they have all the dangerous coal-minin’ jobs, and also feel sorry for men when all the dangerous coal-minin’ jobs go away because of globalization and automation, which makes them have to vote for Donald Trump for some reason.
Anyway, Googlebrodude, you WORK (worked) AT GOOGLE. We are talking about people who TYPE ON COMPUTERS ALL DAY LONG no matter whether they’re low-paid clerks (likely women) or higher-paid software engineers (likely men). We are, all of us, keyboard jockeys, equally vulnerable to things like carpal tunnel and tendonitis and sitting-on-our-butts-all-day-itis and whatnot.
You can’t bask in the studly glow of firefighters and coal miners when you’ve got an office job, bro. Seriously.
15. Phrenology 201/Advanced Dudesplaining
Below I’ll go over some of the differences in distribution of traits between men and women that I outlined in the previous section
You didn’t, bro. I mean, you didn’t outline them, and you didn’t establish these “distributions” you keep talking about.
I think it’s still instructive to list them
Yeah, dude, sure. Very instructive, if the field of study is “what idiots think.” Do they give a Master’s in that?
16. Master’s in Phrenology/Bored now
There’s a point in a typical misogynist screed — unedited, poorly organized, nattering — where I just start to get bored. Like, are you ever going to shut up, dude? How many times are you going to repeat essentially the same stupid ideas?
But sometimes that’s exactly when the real point starts to emerge.
17. I’m not a white supremacist except when I am.
I don’t think we should do arbitrary social engineering of tech just to make it appealing to equal portions of both men and women.
Google has created several discriminatory practices:
Programs, mentoring, and classes only for people with a certain gender or race
Hey, wait a minute. We were talking about male/female differences all this time, and now, just now, at the “bored now” point we bring up race?
That seems… telling.
Why do racists and misogynists tend to be the same people? Probably for the same reason that somebody who engages in sexual harassment or assault is also likely to steal, plagiarize and embezzle, or why domestic abuse is strongly correlated with both terrorism and mass murder.
You start out with a sense of entitlement and a desire for dominance and control, qualities which our society magnifies greatly for white men. Add a few toxic narratives, such as the inherent righteousness of your own sense of grievance. Add a few other characteristics, like lack of empathy and lack of conscience, and voilà. You have the basic recipe for a monster, or at least, a big jerk.
And, incidentally, somebody who’s not a great employee either.
18. Feeeeemales/the rant is getting rantier
In addition to the Left’s affinity for those it sees as weak, humans are generally biased towards protecting females.
Wow, it’s like he got tired too, and has dropped the “reasonable centrist” facade, with tells like capitalizing the “Left” and talking about “feeeeeeeemales” (cue Ferengi voice).
But also, identifying “affinity for those it sees as weak” as an aspect of “the left” has just turned the Nazi signaling way, way up.
19. Advanced phrenology/Brovolutionary brochology
this likely evolved because males are biologically disposable and because women are generally more cooperative and agreeable than men.
Not established: that human males are “biologically disposable.”
Not established: that human women in general are more cooperative and agreeable than human men in general.
Not established: that if women are indeed more cooperative and agreeable than men that this is biologically rather than culturally determined.
Not even a thing that makes sense because evolution doesn’t work that way: the idea that because women are more cooperative and agreeable, therefore a bias toward protecting them evolved in the human race.
19. Another own goal/what were we talking about again?
We have extensive government and Google programs, fields of study, and legal and social norms to protect women, but when a man complains about a gender issue issue [sic] affecting men, he’s labelled as a misogynist and whiner.
Googlebrodude, my man, have you stopped to consider the possibility that maybe people call you a misogynist and a whiner because you are a misogynist and a whiner?
Again, I’m applying Occam’s Razor here. Or maybe the asshole principle: if you meet one asshole in a day, you met an asshole, but if you meet nothing but assholes all day long, you’re probably the asshole.
Also, we seem to be drifting away from anything specific to pro-diversity activities at Google and into a more generalized stock MRA “society is biased toward females so it’s only right that men make all the money and have all the power” kind of rant.
20. Let’s drop the facade of reasonable centrism, shall we?
Nearly every difference between men and women is interpreted as a form of women’s oppression.
The same compassion for those seen as weak creates political correctness, which constrains discourse and is complacent to the extremely sensitive PC-authoritarians that use violence and shaming to advance their cause. While Google hasn’t harbored the violent leftists protests that we’re seeing at universities
Pro-diversity = PC = Leftist = protest = violence is a stock talking point of the extreme right. So, somehow, if you think people shouldn’t sexually harass women in the workplace, you’re exactly the same as some kid breaking the window of a Starbucks, which is also exactly the same as actually assaulting a person.
Anyway, to all you “alt right” dudes out there, do not for an instant think you are fooling anyone when you denounce “violence” and attribute it to “the Left” or “Antifa.” You advocate and exalt violence coming from your own side, and if you feel sufficiently overpowered relative to your opponent, you will certainly engage in it.
You don’t think violence is wrong, my dudes. You just think ONLY FASCISTS LIKE YOURSELVES SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO DO IT.
21. I’m not saying what I’m obviously saying.
I hope it’s clear that I’m not saying that diversity is bad, that Google or society is 100% fair, that we shouldn’t try to correct for existing biases,
Except “we shouldn’t try to correct for existing biases” is pretty much the exact point of this entire essay.
I’m advocating for quite the opposite: treat people as individuals, not as just another member of their group
Then why waste all that time outlining what you imagine to be the differences between men and women, as a group?
21. A list of demands
Presented as “suggestions,” of course:
Translation: stop treating bigotry as immoral. I want to feel good about my bigotry.
Stop alienating conservatives
Translation: stop ignoring and/or ridiculing my ideas. You’re making me feel bad.
Confront Google’s biases
Translation: change Google’s biases to match my own.
Stop restricting programs and classes to certain genders or races.
Translation: anything that doesn’t benefit white men like myself should be stopped immediately.
Instead focus on some of the non-discriminatory practices I outlined.
Translation: Since I haven’t actually outlined any techniques for ending discrimination in this manifesto, what I really want everyone to do is ignore discrimination and hope it goes away. Well, I don’t actually hope discrimination goes away. I hope all this discussion about discrimination goes away.
Have an open and honest discussion about the costs and benefits of our diversity programs.
Translation: I’m sure, deep in my heart, that all this diversity nonsense must be hurting our bottom line, but I don’t have any evidence for that. BECAUSE THEY ARE HIDING THE TRUTH. So I’m equally sure that a true, open, honest discussion — NOT ONE WITH ALL THE BIAS — would confirm that absolutely everything I think is 100 percent correct.
Focus on psychological safety, not just race/gender diversity.
Translation: stop hurting my feelings, other people can go hang.
Translation: I am a sociopath.
Translation: “I didn’t mean to do it” should be a universal get-out-of-jail free card. For me, anyway.
Be open about the science of human nature.
Translation: Embrace phrenology and stop shaming/mocking those of us who believe in it.
Reconsider making Unconscious Bias training mandatory for promo committees.
Translation: Don’t make me examine my biases.
22. I have footnotes so I’m smart
And, at the bottom of the manifesto, we get to a bunch of footnotes. But none of them are actually citations, definitions, cross-references, or jokes, so I’m not going to detail them here.
So, there we have it. That is what Googlebro has to say. None of it is novel, new, interesting, or based in science. It is self-pitying, openly misogynistic, and flirts with fascist ideas in a number of places.
Now, if you find yourself trash-talking it on Twitter, and somebody says “have you read it?” you can counter with “have you?” and pop a few choice quotes back at ’em.