When you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you

Friedrich Nietzsche

We live in a time of cancerous technology growth which threatens to leave nothing untouched by its metastatic tendrils. Yet, even as the world overflows with devices numberless devices whose conception was impossible only a decade earlier, our lives have not become comparably filled by a similar abundance of meaning. If anything, they are becoming more empty. Depression has become 10 to 20 times more common in the past 50 years, and antidepressant use has skyrocketed by 400% in the past 20 years. But, I’m not here to bash on technology (maybe another day.)

Instead, I’m more curious about what our technology says *about us*. If we stare into this technological void that we have created, what do we see reflected back at us?

Before leaving school, I had seen videos of horses raping women, videos of people beating homeless men, and received rape threats from people who found various online personas of mine. How could my parents ever prepared  me for such a world? The one they grew up in was nothing like that. I’d seen images of women who stuck beer bottles up their vaginas and getting DPed before I’d had my first kiss. The world was a desperate, angry, horny, vindictive place and I knew no better. I never judged it, or questioned it because I was too young. This is just how people were, and I accepted it.

But, I don’t think this is how people have always seen each other. If I had a read on the generation slightly older than me, the ones who were just old enough not to internalize the “normal-ness” of these internet shenanigans, I think what they feel is a level of resigned disappointment. Their interpretation is something like “the worst people come out on the internet.” My interpretation is closer to, “the internet allows us to show a part of ourselves we keep hidden in the daylight.”

What does it say about us though? That, as soon as we had a platform for major anonymous expression, porn, and blood, and shit, and violence came spewing out in all directions?

You know the cliche about the serial killers? “He seemed so normal, so nice and polite – I would never have guessed?” Well, isn’t that how we all turned out to be?



Being Female or Being Feminine

My girlfriend works in the call center of a tech company, and was promoted to be a team lead. She just came back from a retreat with the other team leads, and said it was kind of funny that all of the team leads were either male, or lesbian. (Two of the three lesbians, including her, were “masculine of center” or “butch” lesbians.)

I thought that was interesting, because it’s something I’ve sort of heard before. One of my friends did research with one of the few female physics professors at MIT, and my friend pointed out to me “Many people think it’s particularly great that she’s become a professor while being a fairly masculine lesbian, but I wonder if the fact that she was a masculine woman made it easier for her male colleagues to accept her.”

When I started discussing this with my girlfriend last night, I read her reaction as a little defensive – like, maybe she thought I was privilege shaming her for her gender expression? That was not my intention, I have no strong emotional attachment to the sexuality or gender expression of women who enter tech. In fact, I have  no strong attachment to the number of women in tech. Given that I didn’t particularly enjoy my life as a programmer, I’m not inclined to encourage women to live a life they don’t enjoy in an effort to hit an arbitrary metric for the “ideal” number of women.

Yet, I think there’s something *there* – something important drifting around the fact that femininity itself is a marker for “non technical.”

Personally, I think the one true failing of feminism is that traditionally female roles did not gain in prestige after the movement. We freed up women to express masculinity, which was really wonderful for some women, but we did not learn to respect the work women used to do. So now, no one does that work – at least, no one I know. I think I have one friend who stays home to take care of her kids, and I’m nearly 30. This is always a tricky point, because sometimes people will read this as “women should stay home and take care of the kids,” which isn’t want I intend to convey.

I have often wondered is why did women want to take on masculine roles, but why are men so reluctant to take on feminine ones? Is it because it is worse, because raising children is a far more terrible task than being a middle manager? I suspect not.

I think that for many people (dare I say, most people? Myself included) prestige is very important. And, women’s work does not have prestige, but, it’s necessary. Sometimes, I despair because the world seems so cold now. People my age are expected to work these 50, 60, 70 hour weeks, with no concern for our own enjoyment or pleasure in life. And we’ll do it! Why? Why are people my age willing to work so hard to make someone else rich? Why do we put so much effort into producing material goods, and making money?

Do you work more than 40 hours a week? If so, why?

The traditional “feminine” role was a dependent one, dependent on children for fulfillment, on a husband for material support. I’ve heard an accusation that “women act like they don’t need men anymore,” but sometimes, I think the reverse is true. I think men act like they don’t need women. I’ve met so many men in tech willing to sacrifice their personal relationships for their career, to work such long hours they have no time to date. And, even if they are dating, they often view their main contribution to the relationship to be money, not love.

I wish traditionally feminine roles were more valued, not so we could force women to get back in the kitchen, but so that anyone who chose to pursue them – male or female – would not be ashamed of their choice. Men could say, without shame, “My connections with those I love are more important to me than the money I make, and so I will not put the best part of myself into my job. I will save it for my friends, and family, and lovers.”

Traditional femininity (as I understand it) was about nurturing the family, and maintaining social relationships within the community. Traditional masculinity was about making things manifest in the physical world – and it’s no coincidence that as we’ve lost femininity, our consumerism and materialism has skyrocketed. But, how can we start to respect something? How can a culture change its own values?

I don’t know.