Whistle-blowing, Uber and the NYTimes

Oct 26 2017 Published by under Uncategorized

Susan Fowler, the engineer who "blew the whistle" on the rampant sexism at Uber, is profiled in last Sunday's NYTimes.

Her story grabs you, if you are one of the many, many women who have lived through something similar. Your story doesn't have to even be as blatant, or disgusting or life-changing to be able to bring back those visceral feelings of shock replaced by horror and, eventually after it has happened again and again, the dispair of "will this ever end" and "will anyone ever take me seriously?".

Her story is powerful but the profile is dreadfully written. In the "Sunday Style" section, nee the Women's Pages of the newspapers of my youth, it is told in a breathless, histrionic tone. The writing never avoids a shocking metaphor or lurid writing when the opportunity presents. Surrounded by wedding announcements and ads for lingerie, purses and jewelry, it reduces Fowler's story to a modern harlequin romance or the women's version of Pilgrim's Progress.

Digging down into the specifics, buried in the last two columns on page 9, is the horror what happened after her blog post. I will give piece this: it shows Arianna Huffington to be the ass she is:

Ms. Huffington told me that she agreed the problem was "systemic sexism" but that she did not believe there was "systemic sexual harassment".

WTF? Yes, we are sexist, but we keep it to ourselves, so there is no harassment. The message to the women who complained, to Huffington on the board, and to HR, was "yes, this happens" but the public face was always "there is really no problem, but if there was we would have already corrected it".

Just going through the details of the article, the ranks of denial, the serial offenses, brings back memories. Going to HR and being told no problem exists. In one point in the article, it quotes Fowler talking about how the election of Trump made her feel powerless, a feeling she thinks hasurred greater activism on the part of many women.

When I was in grad school, long, long ago, I always thought that by the time I got to be old, issues of racism and sexism would be gone. There are deep, ugly, oily waters of hate, of dismissal, of degradation of women, and people of color, the people who are our brothers and sisters and siblings of non-binary gender identity who are just different. These feelings pool and run underneath the veneer of "patriotism.

Oh, and New York Times? Take these stories out of the "society" pages and put them where they belong.

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