Why Firing the Google Engineer Who Spoke His Mind Is Bad For The Women’s Cause

You Don't heal a wound by covering it.

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Signs for an event at Google. Flickr.

Google has fired the male engineer who shared his views on bias, diversity and inclusion policies and training practices at the tech giant, and on the differences between men and women that he believes are biological.

I’ve read the engineer’s memo, Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber, and I agree with some of the points he makes. But most of all, I disagree with Google’s firing him.

Firing someone who doesn’t think as we do is not the effective way to deal with a problem–the same that you don’t heal a wound by covering it. Firing him says that thinking differently is penalized. But thinking differently is supposed to be a good thing, especially in tech fields, where innovation and disruption are so highly valued. Or is “differently” good only when it matches our idea of acceptably different?

Shutting down criticism of women and policies that protect women reinforces the message that women need protection.

But if women need protection, how can they be leaders or even fully-fledged employees? Who would ever consider putting a person who needs protection in a high responsibility position? And how could someone who feels she needs to be protected ever aspire to be a leader? Leader of whom, if she, herself, needs to be taken care of?

Politically, I lean left. In my opinion, all humans, no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation or geographical origin, have the same rights–especially, the right to choose: whom to love and marry, what gender they belong to, whether they should have a child and when, what career to get into, or what country to live in. I also believe in solidarity, egalitarianism and democracy.

But, at the same time, I believe that humans have responsibilities: everyone needs to be held accountable for their actions.

When we moved to this country, a little short of three years ago, my then 10-year old son had some issues at school. He got into small fights with other kids–immigration is hard. He soon noticed a pattern that he identified as sexist. Whenever a girl kicked him and he kicked back, the adults would tell him, “You don’t kick a girl! Never!” But when the same thing happened with another boy, the message was, “Guys, please, don’t fight!” As a result, he felt helpless against a girl and a system that favored her over him no matter the circumstances and how bad the girl had kicked, insulted, or bullied him. (My lifetime mantra has, of course, always been, “You don’t hit. Period.”)

When girls are protected this way, then, the messages girls and society get are first, that girls can get away with their bad behavior because they’re girls. And second, that girls are not agents but patients of the actions boys do to them–that they don’t do but endure. Hence, they’re victims.

When girls and women are portrayed as victims, the message is that others, and not women themselves, are responsible for women’s well-being. This generates the idea that women can complain in order to have their problems solved.

Further and more significantly, it tells women that they don’t need to abide by the same rules of fierce competition and hard choices than do men in order to get to the top. It tells women that they’re not getting to the top because the system is dysfunctional (which is true, I don’t deny it) and until that system is fixed, there’s nothing women can do. Because women need protection and someone will take care of them. Because women cannot take care of their own well-being. Because women are patients and not agents.

The same type of protective discrimination sustains other behaviors that are socially accepted. Men propose marriage to women–with all the paraphernalia of engagement ring, kneeling down, tears, omygod, yes! Men pay the restaurant check, walk women home, open the door for them, carry their bags, lend them a coat when it’s cold.

Let me tell you, all that is discrimination. And if you, women, consent to that, you’re giving men the key to your gilded cage.

Now, if we want to break free of the protected position the male-dominated society has put us in, we have to start allowing dissenting voices, criticism, disagreement. We need to start interrupting men when they don’t let us speak–and yes, to speak more loudly. We need to stop wanting to be liked at all costs. We need to stop minding what other people think of us and pursue our goals with fierce determination without awaiting a man’s validation.

Only by being proactive and behaving as free, responsible human beings, will women show men that we don’t need protection and can live up to the same challenges than they do.

By showing, not telling.

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