Pando

Another reason we should probably kill the term "brogrammer" forever

By David Holmes , written on October 7, 2014

From The News Desk

Yesterday, Sarah Lacy published an epic piece on the rise of the "asshole class" among Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. Her thesis goes that while the kind of person with the drive and talent to build a billion dollar business is often arrogant, intense, and calculated, the trait missing from many of the youngest and worst Silicon Valley offenders, like Uber's Travis Kalanick and Snapchat's Evan Spiegel, is integrity. And yet the money keeps flowing into these jerks' coffers while venture capitalists continue to hypocritically say with a straight face, "We invest in people first, ideas second."

The issue isn't cut and dried. You can argue that it shouldn't matter if entrepreneurs are assholes as long as their businesses are worthy of investment. Lacy herself recognizes this point -- her issue is more with the hypocrisy between what investors say they value and what they actually value.

But one criticism of her post that's been bubbling up on Twitter over the past twelve hours is baffling to me -- that it's an "attack on men." And while the argument is totally irrelevant to Lacy's post, the people making it provide another opportunity to examine the term "brogrammer" and why it's got to go.

It started when John Durant, an author and paleo diet evangelist, tweeted Lacy's story with the comment, "Brogrammers, gamers, assholes -- any angle to attack men in tech."

Okay, where to begin. Yes, each asshole Lacy cites is a man, but let's be real: Only 13 percent of venture-backed startups are founded by women so of course the list is dominated by men. And while I'm sure some of these women are assholes, I can't think of one who's both as big a jerk as the names Lacy cites and whose company has notched a similarly high valuation -- And I doubt Durant can either.

Furthermore, while Lacy makes mentions of "brogrammer culture" and the misogyny therein, it's certainly not the focus of the article. She refers to misogyny only to highlight specific occurrences, like Spiegel's fraternity emails or accusations of sexual harassment brought against Tinder's Justin Mateen.

Durant's tweet was bad enough, but some of the responses from his followers were even worse. From there, the thread devolved into a cesspool of Gamergate misogyny, attacking women for not being smart enough to code, making repeated references to "SJW"'s or "Social Justice Warriors" -- an ad hominem attack used to discredit the views of people who stand up for equal rights -- and calling men who support women in tech "beta."

One man tweeted, "A 'Bro' used to be a type of bonafide douche but now just seems to be any man doing anything."

I will grant him this: The relatively recent conflation of "bro" and "asshole" is troubling -- but only because it gives non-bro assholes the cover to pretend they're fighting the good fight. That's why we need to get rid of the term brogrammer.

As Kate Losse writes in a brilliant, etymological and sociological take on "brogrammers," the term suggests that all the sexism in the tech world stems from fratboy code-crushers like Spiegel -- "bros" if you will. But despite the fact that building a tech company is a more mainstream endeavor today than ever before, Silicon Valley isn't exactly overrun by spray-tanned jocks. And if these responses to Lacy's article, as well as the Gamergate controversy, have taught us anything it's that the self-identified "nerds" -- the people the "bros" perhaps picked on in high school -- are just as capable of misogyny. Even worse, their misogyny is often veiled as righteous indignation over issues like "Men's Rights" or "gaming journalism ethics."

Not that fratboy misogyny isn't incredibly upsetting and dangerous. But it isn't really the dominant form of sexism at play in the tech world. As Losse writes,

The loud and tacky 'brogrammer' is a false flag-- if you are not a brogrammer, the logic goes, you must be an outcast genius who has suffered long and would never oppress a fly. The industry is full not of the former but the latter-- programmers who are smart and may present as harmlessly "nerdy" but whose sense of themselves as being "the underdog" means that it is very hard to see the ways in which they participate in unconsciously but potentially harmful ways in an industry that has coded them as kings. In reality, programmers in Silicon Valley can be fully and invisibly privileged without ever touching a Grey Goose bottle-service setup or a tube of hair gel.
So stop blaming bros for the tech world's sexism. Instead find a new term to describe the people responsible for this trend. Regardless of whether they played football in high school or sat on the chess club might I suggest that term be sexists.

[image by David Holmes]