It seems overly emotional to me to write this article

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

“You are too emotional” tends to be a gendered accusation, thrown at women, and yet I’ve seen men get very uncomfortable in meetings, and then lash out. I don’t recall seeing a man cry at the workplace, but anger is as much an emotion as tears, and there seems to be a much higher tolerance of anger from men than either anger or tears from women.

I write this in response to a post from Rachel By The Bay (which you’ll see below) where she is trying to avoid being accused of being too emotional.

There are disappointing comments from various readers who posted comments on Hacker News. The people making these comments are clearly motivated by strong emotions. In fact, the hidden subtext of a lot of of the responses amount to a variation of one of these:

I am uncomfortable with what you have to say, therefore I will ridicule you for saying it.

I would prefer it if what you are saying was not true, therefore I will accuse you of being irrational.

What you say has implications that cause me internal conflict, but I can resolve those conflicts by deciding that what you say has no validity whatsoever.

You trigger emotions in me that I dislike, therefore I will accuse you of being emotional.

There is some irony in people getting so emotional about the claim that “You’re too emotional” tends to be used as a gendered accusation. Chuck McManis offered some excellent commentary of the social dynamic at work:

I’ve observed this sort of behavior in groups where the group is invested in the allegation not being true.

My sixth grade ‘safety patrol’ volunteer group had a member who was very popular in school, but didn’t do his ‘shift’ on the cross walk three times and was thus eligible for expulsion. Clear fact, clear rule, but a lot of people in the group didn’t want to believe that the group tolerated incompetence in order to share popularity, and so many attacks were made on the methodology of taking attendance, or scheduling shifts, or the definitions of responsibilities. As the ‘weird’ guy in the group it made perfect sense to me, here is a rule, here is a consequence, rule gets broken, consequence gets enacted. Picked up a lot of flack for that point of view.

So here we have someone who describes an experience she had at a place that considers itself hip, cool, and generally superior to other places one might work. Her experience, and more importantly her interpretation of the experience, if accepted as true, reflects badly on that place. If you still work at that place, or hold it in high esteem, you have three choices:

1) Shoot the messenger – most common response seems to be this one, shoot the bearer of bad news and you can pretend bad news doesn’t exist.

2) Shoot the process – this is where people who recognize that their first instinct is to shoot the messenger but are ‘above all that’ and yet do not reconcile the information with their own view of the world, attack the transmission channel and accuse the channel of being broken, biased, or both.

3) Hear the message, understand the brokenness it represents, and seek out ways to figure out where the system is broken and to fix it. Of course that doesn’t necessarily involve a response directly to the channel so observers outside the conversation may not see the results at all.

Gordon Guthrie read through the reactions people wrote on Hacker News and picked out the most accusatory remarks:

“the author reached an entirely fallacious and baseless conclusion”

“without any evidence, concludes that the manager said this because she is a woman”

“Whether or not this incident was motivated by sexism, there’s absolutely no indication, based on the facts presented, that it was.”

“then she is overreacting. Not because she’s a woman, mind you. Because she really is too touchy about this”

“she’s raging over and reading so much into a statement that is, by normal standards, extremely neutral, leads me to believe that even if she has been directly accused of being too emotional in the past, then maybe there’s something to the accusations”

“Playing the sexism card every time you run into a bad manager with a dysfunctional team seems like wasted effort to me.”

“to look for gender based explanations just seems overly paranoid”

“It can only be used on women who give a crap about being viewed as emotional.”

“I can claim that my business partners are space aliens who read my thoughts and are plotting to colonize the planet all day long, but as long as there’s no shred of evidence of this, the fact that nobody appreciates the lengths I go to wear tinfoil hats and research anti-alien combat techniques is meaningless”

“it’s related to “W” being a bit of a jerk than it is “W” being female”

“If you have a chip on your shoulder in re sexism, you will perceive every negative interaction through that lens”

“that, in effect, is simply a unilateral claim of immunity against the accusation of being too emotional: it gives one the license to be as emotional as one likes”

“It’s obvious that she’s frustrated from her previous dealings with certain people, and their alleged sexism (which, unfortunately, is not demonstrated in her recounting). Unfortunately, her response is to attack a hornet with a sledgehammer (with corresponding collateral damage) and then blame the result on sexism.”

“this blog post brings to mind a different female stereotype: too much drama”

“that author’s emotions are out of control in both cases – during the described incident and when she writes the post. She fails by refusing to recognize that”

“It seems overly emotional to me to write this article. (Maybe it is perfectly sensible, but to me, it seems overly emotional).”

The actual article begins with the paragraph:

“How do you piss off a technical woman so she will leave your team? It’s easy. Just go and lob a few complaints about her behavior that would never apply to a guy. The easiest one of these is to say ‘you’re being too emotional’ ”

This entire discussion is unbelievable – Rachel By The Bay ought to be a respected member of this community based on her blog – instead she is being attacked in a bizarre way.

I’m left with the feeling that, in terms of pursuing humans rights, and fair treatment for all, perhaps we have to question the idea that the public is basically decent and only needs time to adjust to new norms. Perhaps any new movement needs to move forward with the idea that the public is basically indecent and will need to be bludgeoned into respecting basic civil rights.

The original post:

How do you piss off a technical woman so she will leave your team? It’s easy. Just go and lob a few complaints about her behavior that would never apply to a guy. The easiest one of these is to say “you’re being too emotional”. Who’s going to argue against that? All you have to do is find places where she emphasizes things instead of remaining in a flat monotone and you hit paydirt.

It doesn’t even have to exist! You can totally claim it’s happening just because you think it’ll still work. Here’s how.

It’s Monday morning in California, and it’s time for the weekly production meeting. Meanwhile, you’re in Dublin visiting the other half of the team, and it’s getting late in the day there. You get to witness the following interaction between your team’s boss (B) and the one woman (W) on the team.

B: So I was looking at the pages from this weekend and it looks like we had something bad on Saturday. What happened?

W: Too many queries were failing in the Netherlands.

B: Why were they failing?

W: The new authentication daemon on the machines has a bug where it locks up after it runs too long.

B: How do you know this?

W: After it woke me up for the fifth time, I got out of bed and troubleshot the whole stack down to this daemon and proved it by restarting one, at which point everything started working again.

B: What did you do about it?

W: I wrote something to restart the daemon before it can run that long until we get a patch.

B: When did this start?

W: Before my shift.

B: Who was on call then?

W: S.

B: What happened on his shift?

W: He rebooted the machines and it stopped happening for a while.

B: Is that it?

W: Yes.

B: How do you know that?

W: I talked to T and he said he had talked to S during that shift, and that was their conclusion: reboot it, and it goes away.

It’s a very bizarre and stunted conversation. The woman is clearly going to great lengths to not elaborate. She’s answering things as succinctly as possible so as not to give you any way to claim that she’s being emotional. It doesn’t matter! You can still play that card!

Here’s what you do. After the meeting, you get her on chat and you say “wow, you were really hard on S”. It doesn’t matter that she was answering direct questions posed by the boss and had to answer them. The more you accuse, the more it becomes true, so stay at it!

If you’re lucky, she’ll get fed up and go somewhere else. That’ll let you relax again and enjoy the good life. Who needs the stress of having a woman around on your team?

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