Dear White Women in Tech: Here’s a Thought — Follow Your Own Advice

You’re happy to use the means afforded to you for being white while doing nothing meaningful for women of color.

by Riley H on February 3rd, 2016

We’ve reached a point in tech where white women are being flown across the country and paid to talk about their experiences in technology and in gaming. They discuss centering women, they discuss the entitlement of men, they discuss the problems with the patriarchy. They go on and on about queerness, ageism, body size and what these factors mean for them. In doing so, they’re making money and are easily able to go forward with writing books, making appearances in mainstream media, funding their own personal projects, non-profits, companies, and even being upheld as experts on the effects of harassment in social media.

Contrast that with the treatment of Black women and femmes in tech. There seem to be only two ways to be considered a worthwhile Black woman in tech: 1) coming from one of those top companies that notoriously hate hiring Black people of any kind and 2) making your own Silicon Valley startup. Meanwhile, despite Black women making up approximately 2% of graduates with Computer Science or related degrees, with many more Black women finishing code schools and self-teaching, top companies tend to have 0% Black women employed as technologists.

When Black women are harassed on social media, it’s largely completely obscured from any mainstream media, leaving some of the most vulnerable women with no support or help, nor any attention drawn to just how violent the harassment becomes, with the added bonus of racist violence attached.

On top of that, when Black women follow the absolutely faulty advice of “make your own” when it comes to lack of businesses that consider them and their needs? No one funds them. Yes. Essentially no Black women-owned businesses receive any meaningful VC funding.

And yet for all the talks white women give white men about how to be true “allies” (a term I use very loosely), how to center women, how to pass women opportunities and boost their words rather than speak themselves – all that helpful advice on being a decent white man seems to go clear out the window when it comes to being a decent white woman.

So… do you have any intention of following your own advice?

Long story short: Your favorite white women are all pretty fucking racist, and nobody cares.

White women in the tech sphere have been called out repeatedly by women of color for flat out racism as well as transmisogyny, and many merely block multiple women of color and trans women when it happens. They still are upheld as ultra-progressive and are allowed to speak on issues they will never face in their lives. Others are happy to ask women of color to help peddle their wares in an attempt to get back at male harassers, but have they ever tried to center the Black women and femmes who were the target practice of those harassers long before them? Who got no press and were not able to defend themselves, and merely had to muddle through best they could?  From my spot at the bottom, from my place of being stalked, harassed and violated for solid years, receiving rape and death threats daily, I gotta know:

When are these white women going to take their own advice, decenter themselves, and actually try to do something more than acknowledge women and femmes of color exist during their paid slots on some panel at some conference?

You want white men to center women… but you as white women won’t center women and femmes of color. So frankly, what good are you? What use are you? Mikki Kendall’s hashtag #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen comes to mind. You are all very capable of helping yourselves get paid, of giving a quick mention to women of color to seem intersectional, but what are you actually doing for women of color?

For most of you? That answer is nothing.

A woman holding her hand, palm out to the viewer, over her mouth. Her lips are superimposed onto her open palm.

Photo CC-BY LaVladina.

On Twitter, I see tons of white women who hold these “open dialogues” which are meant to reveal certain lapses in STEM. These same white women will aggregate all sorts of racist and short-sighted responses and then claim “oh, I’m just here to hear everyone’s stories”…usually so they can write an article that they will be paid for.

Twitter is already well-known for being a place where Black labor is exploited for gain, but nothing is given to those people in turn. The completely unwanted, much-hated Moments tag is currently chock full of Black experiences, whereas Twitter can’t even find enough fucks to hire Black engineers, showing themselves as one of the absolute worst as far as diverse programmer hiring goes. Remember a certain article that pointed to Twitter’s failings in 2015? Twitter decided to take the time between then and now to hire a white man as their new VP of Diversity and Inclusion…one who has a, generously speaking, lackluster track record in the role.

Many white women on Twitter love to discuss this and similar issues for people of color in technology! Every other day I see some offhand comment about just how horrible it must be for us. I see encouragement to do little brain exercises where all the white women get together and imagine how hard it must be to be a woman of color in these violent spaces. I see these white women steadily gaining followers, accolades for “being down for the cause”. After all, they’ve sufficiently proved themselves “not-racist”, right? So the work is over.

By then, some especially ignorant white women are starting “diversity” companies in highly gentrified white areas because “you’re all about the cause” (and the millions of dollars in VC funding that your upper class background and white face were able to get you, money that Black women trying to start businesses see statistically zero percent of), take several months to hire even one woman of color, and in the meantime your founding employees don’t understand the most basic concepts of marginalization.

Instead of opening your white, ignorant mouths, how about finding more women of color to follow? Follow the ones that make you feel uncomfortable about your complacent role in white supremacy. Why don’t you get them donations to complete their projects? Why don’t you talk to your connections in media and gaming and technology to get them contract or full time work? To get them press, book deals and talks? Why don’t you talk to your venture capitalist crews and provide more support to women of color than a lot of lip?

A black woman with her head tilted back, mouth opened as if screaming.

Photo CC-BY Dani Vázquez.

Instead of being useful to us, all I see is that white women are quite happy to talk at all-white panels and call it diversity in tech and gaming. You’re happy to use the means afforded to you for being white to play a good game and make a good face while doing nothing meaningful for women of color. You’re screaming and shouting all day about your own shallow versions of feminism while the women of color you claim to represent are trying to simultaneously hold their heads up to stay above water, and down to avoid choking on smoke.

There are no white women excluded from this article. No matter how marginalized you are in other ways, as white women, there is always someone you are shitting on. For most of you, multiple someones.

So take your own damn advice. Stop talking. Anything you might possibly have to say can be said and has been said better by a woman of color. End the idea that “gender diversity” by itself is a valid concept and not merely a front for exclusion and white supremacy. And for fuck’s sake: start doing your part to get women of color PAID, instead of just talking about how no one (including you!) is willing to listen to them or give them a shot!