Discussing software, the web, politics, sexuality and the unending supply of human stupidity.

On Silicon Valley and Manly Macho Men

Yesterday, a post circulated from Tumblr by a guy called Qu33riousity. Original location and pastebin. The post has been removed from Tumblr, but the cat is out of the whole damn building, let alone the bag, we may as well discuss it.

If you work in the tech industry, it’s worth reading as it is profoundly depressing. As has been noted on Twitter and lots of other places, the company the post alludes to is Kixeye, a casual games development company. Kixeye has been previously pilloried for a chauvinist culture that tries to appeal to brogrammers.

What strikes me about this is the sheer ridiculous enforced masculinity of the brogrammer crowd. Let’s get something sorted first off: I’m a guy and love being one. I’m also a gay guy and absolutely fucking love dudes. This isn’t an anti-guy thing: it’d be kind of hypocritical for me to be a guy, enjoy being a guy, be attracted to guys and think there’s some kind of problem with being a guy. That’s not it. The problem is the enforcement of bullshit standards of masculinity… by one’s employers.

Think about it this way. If female employees were told by the company culture that they had to wear higher heels, shorter skirts and have looser morals, there’d be an outcry. And rightly so. It’s not right to expect women to live up to some bullshit male fantasy in order to do their damn job. Whether it’s sexist or misogynist or patriarchal, well, the labels don’t matter: it’s horrible to expect women to live up to your feminine fantasies.

It’s pretty horrible to set and enforce similar standards of masculinity. Not quite as horrible: generally men haven’t been economically and socially oppressed by masculinity in the way women have by male demands that they live up to the demands of femininity. I mean, the kind of masculinity that dreams of being “tough” and “strong”, talks about “kicking ass” and so on. The picture of extreme masculinity is as bullshit as the picture of extreme femininity. Built into it is some kind of ridiculous picture of the Darwinian hunter-gatherer. We are at our most male when we have put all our girly feelings to oneside and are shooting a bear with a cross-bow before downing five beers and fucking a supermodel senseless.

Now, shocking confession time. Men and masculinity are hot.

See? Hot as fuck.

Not convinced? Oh well.

Anyway, the point is this. Juvenile forced masculinity of the sort Kixeye et al. revel in isn’t just horrible and demeaning to others, it fails at one of the primary design goals: being attractive. All that 4chan gamer bravado shit? Not attractive. You know what is attractive? Brains. Being emotionally advanced enough that you actually understand that you have feelings and that’s okay. Not being a sexist, racist shitbag. Sculpted pecs are hot, but maturity is hot too.

Masculinity is sexy and awesome, but forced masculinity isn’t. Let me give you an analogy. Child beauty pageants. Things like Toddlers and Tiaras. You take perfectly normal children, slather them in makeup, hairspray and sparkly sequin-covered bikinis and they’ve been given an artificial layer of adult extreme femininity where it goes beyond the point of parody. Four year olds who have been done up so much they look like the media image of what a beauty queen should look like that they end up just looking freaky.

The company culture of somewhere like Kixeye, based on Qu33riousity’s post sound both like they are enforcing this bizarro-world masculinity along with enforcing a more stupid company culture generally. They’ve got that 4chan, online gaming bullshit which turns everyone into racist, homophobic assholes. It’s not just “politically correct” complainers, really, if you want people to do their best work, you need a company culture that actually respects people. I’ve worked in companies where people have small dreams, low expectations and look at people who have big ideas as being suspicious: “don’t get ideas above your station” and all that. The flipside of that is I’ve worked at companies where the management accept people as who they are, are friendly, tolerant, warm and kind. Out of those two work environments, which one do I want to wake up to everyday? Which one is likely to prompt me into doing my best work? The one that just lets everyone be themselves and do great work or the one that tries to hire only people who buy into their ludicrous and extravagant standards for masculinity and who both tolerate and promote general assholery at work?