Sense of Humor and Sensibility

Tech culture is fiercely defensive of its casual, laid-back attitude. Any attempt to stifle a joke is therefore just "the man" (or today more likely "the SJWs") trying to force their square, unfunny, suit-wearing ways on we poor outcast nerds. Right?

Wrong. If you think that jokes are more important than being sensitive and inclusive toward women and minorities in tech, you are astonishingly self-absorbed. If you think an atmosphere of locker-room joking isn't a factor in the gender gap, you are delusional.

Example Du Jour: DICSS

You may have seen a JavaScript library called "DICSS" crop up in the past couple days. It's uses JavaScript to inject CSS styles into elements, but that's not really what it is. It's actually a super-elaborate penis joke (if that wasn't adequately telegraphed by the title). I won't link to it, but here's a sample that is adequately illustrative:

Just grab DICSS and stick it wherever you like. DICSS works equally well in your <head> or in your <body>.

Get it? Because DICSS sounds like "dicks" hahaahROFLMAOLOL!!!11!1

I saw it yesterday, thought it was stupid, and moved on like I always have when these things inevitably crop up. But then Chris Eppstein (creator of actually cool CSS tech Compass) made an effective (and funny) statement: he created a pull request that removed the entire project and replaced it with a short apology. The author of the library responded with a comment that spurred this post:

If you search Twitter, the people who enjoy this seem to far outnumber the few who choose to call it offensive. And among those who enjoy it are several women.

This kind of thinking is toxic. It doesn't matter whether or not some people find it funny, or that some of those people are women. The problem is that it perpetuates an exclusionary mindset that tech culture is by men, for men, and that women aren't even part of the equation.

If circumstances were normal, this would just be a bit of lame humor to quickly dismiss. But circumstances aren't normal. Many women see tech as "not for them" and this behavior is a big contributing factor. DICSS is a dumb joke that a teenage boy would make to another teenage boy. The more popularity and attention jokes like this get, the more they appear to be the entire culture from the outside.

Let me also be very specific that whether or not the joke is offensive doesn't matter. I'm not upset about this because I'm offended on behalf of women. I'm upset because a woman seeing this as one of her first experiences with open source culture might be turned off from pursuing it further.

We Have To Be Better Than This

Being able to joke at work and not take things too seriously is awesome. One of the most popular things Divshot's ever made is Geo, a Geocities-inspired Bootstrap theme we did for April Fool's.

Assuming that calling out humor as exclusionary is "thought policing" or "white knighting" or whatever else has to stop. We in tech, each of us, need to take stock of what's really important and worth fighting for. Would you rather be able to make dick jokes at work all day or have more smart, awesome women join our community? Is it really worth the risk just for a few lame chuckles?

I know my answer to that question, and I wouldn't want to work with anyone who feels otherwise.