In my experience in talking with women and my work in diversity, in Western society, the fear of men that Erynn Brook is talking about is not a pathological condition. It is a legitimate and rational response to systemic misogyny and violence against women.
That certainly doesn’t mean every man is a threat — but it does mean the risk of violence from men is something that is not safe for a woman to discount. Ever.
What I took away from this article is that Showing Up Is Not Enough.
In your comment, you tell Erynn that she should:
Stick to teaching code to our girls and only that, even if you have to close your eyes.
For me, and the work I do with women in technology, digital literacy and diversity in general, the explicit activity of teaching code is the crucial core of the work. However, the context is that it’s isn’t just “teaching code to our girls and only that” because it can’t be. When girls are systemically excluded because of their gender, there is a larger implicit cultural context and to not acknowledge and engage that is risking the success of teaching girls and women to code.
For example, from making the decision to learn to code, to signing up to actually attending a class, a woman is in a vulnerable position. She is more likely to subjected to questioning and surprise to outright harassment. Deciding to enter the room is hard for anyone showing up to something new — its certainly an experience I have and continue to have. No one likes to be vulnerable.
This social context is implicit in enabling the kind of teaching the Erynn is doing and to ignore it is to ignore a key factor of success of building and sustaining learner engagement and ultimately success.
There is indeed fear and despair in this story — but it isn’t Erynn creating it. And it isn’t the guys in the back of the room creating it — because it’s systemic. Systemic problems are hard to solve because it take collective action and often systemic investment. The collective action here is for men to have a greater awareness of how women, in our society, perceive the world and the people around them. Once we have that we can make better decision on how to interact, behave — and I would advocate — support the inclusion of women in technology is a whole and meaningful way.