White males blame Asians and women for attending universities intended for white males.

In When Asians enroll! (And other tales from meritocracy’s margins) Sarah Ghabrial writes:

Meritocracy forgets privilege, and the fact that folks from marginalized groups have to work a hell of a lot harder for the same reward as their more upwardly mobile counterparts. By the logic of meritocracy, the cream would rise naturally to the top, regardless of status or association, and yet generations passed wherein the “cream” remained almost consistently white and male… that is, until just recently, when the world woke up to the news that minorities were not just gratefully accepting the token slots assigned them, but slowly and surely invading campuses in force, dramatically shifting the demographic away from the white, male, middle-class face of higher education. Meritocracy was somehow, if unevenly, coming through on its promise of diversity. Calamity ensued.

Let’s start with women and the “pussification” of schools. Rant after rant, each less coherent than the last, has blamed the increasing enrollment of women in higher education for all kinds of “male afflictions” (likened by one commentator to a “plague”): a mass exodus of boys from schools at all levels, suddenly put off by title pages and hand raising; dateless young women reduced to hyper-educated spinsters at the tender age of 23; and what about “the family” (where all anti-feminist roads end), ever at the point of demise? Never mind that the education system as it exists and operates today is no more estrogen-riddled than it ever was — teaching has always been a feminized occupation — or that, historically, wherever girls have been admitted, they have outpaced boys, just not outnumbered them. Forget, as well, that the regimentation and “sit still and behave” pedagogical norm is not a recent phenomenon, but the vestige of 19th-century British education reforms by which military-and factory-drawn models of discipline and hierarchy were applied to private and semi-public schools — whose clients were then exclusively boys.


Herein lies the paradox to this whole story that is mind bending, though maybe not surprising to meritocracy’s skeptics. The excellence of individuals other than middle-class white males within an education system designed for and by the latter has aroused a mass panic and sense of social crisis — the blame for which is placed not on the system, but those excelling individuals. Meanwhile, though the ideal of meritocracy remains intact, elements of “affirmative action” are insinuated into university acceptance processes, not in the service of historically excluded groups, but rather, it seems, to soothe the self-esteem of the privileged.

Though these are separate issues, the same kind of language permeates both sets of complaints. Both women and Asians (I can only imagine the threat posed by an Asian woman) are perceived to have adapted almost too well to the disciplinary expectations of public and higher education: in classes, girls are too competent, too malleable, too disciplined, too obedient. In the Maclean’s article, Asian students are described as hyper-studious, almost machine-like in their drive and focus, sacrificing food, sleep, even booze, to maintain their GPA. Suddenly, the terms of merit that are supposed to earn individuals success are re-scripted as faults, even disadvantages (though whether to themselves or others is not always clear).

Read the whole thing.

Link: When Asians enroll! (And other tales from meritocracy’s margins) (via Racialicious)


If you were hacking since age 8, it means you were privileged.

Often, computer geeks who started programming at a young age brag about it, as it is a source of geeky prestige. However, most computer geeks are oblivious to the fact that your parents being able to afford a computer back in the 1980s is a product of class privilege, not your innate geekiness. Additionally, the child’s gender affects how much the parents are willing to financially invest in the child’s computer education. If parents in the 1980s think that it is unlikely their eight-year-old daughter will have a career in technology, then purchasing a computer may seem like a frivolous expense.

Because of systemic racism, class differences correlate with racial demographics. In the Racialicious post Gaming Masculinity, Latoya quotes a researcher’s exchange with an African American male computer science (CS) undergraduate:

“Me and some of my black friends were talking about the other guys in CS. Some of them have been programming since they were eight. We can’t compete with that. Now, the only thing that I have been doing since I was eight is playing basketball. I would own them on the court. I mean it wouldn’t be fair, they would just stand there and I would dominate. It is sort of like that in CS.”
– Undergraduate CS Major

Those “other guys” in CS are those white, male geeks who brag in CS newsgroups about hacking away at their Commodore 64s as young children, where successive posters reveal younger and younger ages in order to trump the previous poster. This disgusting flaunting of privilege completely demoralizes those of us who gained computer access only recently. However, CS departments—which tend to be dominated by even more privileged computer geeks of an earlier era when computers were even rarer—also assume that early computer adoption is a meritocratic measure of innate interest and ability.

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Lady Lovelace was the first computer programmer.

When I was a young girl and learned about Lady Lovelace, the first computer programmer, I found it deliciously ironic that someone who defied gender stereotypes would have such an absurdly feminine and alliterative name.

The name “Lady Lovelace” was similar to that of a 80s cartoon character I liked when I was younger, “Lady Lovely Locks”. Lady Lovely Locks was beautiful because she had long, blonde hair, and the wicked villain was a girl with black hair. (As an Asian girl with short, black hair, Lady Lovely Locks was only one example of children’s media that communicated to me over and over again that blondes were more beautiful, and that I was ugly.) I amused myself by imagining that Lady Lovelace looked like how her name sounded, having long, flowing, blonde hair and wearing lacy dresses with heart designs, while computer programming.

What is interesting is that even at a young age, I was already aware of the stereotype that computer programming was a male domain. Some people who offer hypotheses about why fewer women go into computer science treat 18-year-old adult women like tabula rasae who have never been exposed to the idea that computer programming is for men, and attempt interventions right when women choose their university majors or accuse such late interventions of being “social engineering”.

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Dear IT industry: “Meritocracy” does not mean what you think it means.

IT culture is so ignorant about how society works that what would be satire in other contexts is actually how most IT people think. IT people in general are not exactly experts on how people and society work, yet too many individuals in IT like to make bold, confident, and unsupported claims about meritocracy.

Vivek Wadhwa of TechCrunch writes:

Is the Valley deliberately keeping these groups out? I don’t think so. Silicon Valley is, without doubt, a meritocracy. In this land, only the fittest survive. That is exactly the way it should be. For the Valley’s innovation system to achieve peak performance, new technologies need to constantly obsolete the old, and the world’s best techies need to keep making the Valley’s top guns compete for their jobs. There is no room for government mandated affirmative action, and our tech companies shouldn’t have to apologize for hiring the people they need. But at the same time, without realizing it, the Valley may be excluding a significant part of the American population that could be making it even more competitive. False stereotypes may be getting in the way of greater innovation and prosperity.

“Meritocracy” means “a society or social system in which people get status or rewards because of what they achieve”. If some people get status and rewards partly because they are white and male, then the system is not a meritocracy. Such a system would have a racial and gender bias, just like every other industry.

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