Zen Of Design

The design and business of gaming from the perspective of an experienced developer

Ellen Pao and Misogyny

I don’t really know if Ellen Pao was an effective leader or not within the walls of Reddit.  What I do know is that not much seemed to actually change during her tenure until the last month or so, and by that time, the angry outrage brigade had already made it clear they were determined to destroy her.

I also know that these same assholes are now trying to start a debate, challenging the ‘narrative’ that Ellen Pao was driven away under an avalanche of misogyny perpetuated by it’s worst members – as detailed by Gawker, the Daily Beast (also here) and the New York Times, among others.  Allow me to save the suspense: there’s nothing to debate.  Whatever else happened during her tenure, Pao endured ridiculous misogyny the entire time – before she’d done pretty much ANYTHING to earn her ire.

Ellen Pao started in November at Reddit, and almost immediately, Reddit soured on her, driven largely by the fact that she had an open gender discrimination case from her previous job – and danced in glee when she ultimately lost it.  From the outset, attempts were made to slander and minimize her as a gold digging slut, with plenty of wonderful language describing her intellect, her sexuality and her vagina.

Things didn’t really go off the rails, though, until she promised to crack down on harassment on the service, which ultimately resulted in  the shutdown of ‘FatPeopleHate’, a subreddit where members would routinely go to other reddits or even sites on the internet, and piledrive fat people with harassment and abuse, with some proudly goading terrified victims to kill themselves.  When she shut down this (but left up awful places such as ‘coontown‘ which at least have the decency to keep their abuse to themselves), things went into overdrive, adding in layers of anti-Asian racism as well as numerous attempts to paint her as a dictator, google bomb her with the nazi flag, etc, etc.  Again, despite the fact that Reddit will allow almost anything on their forums, provided it’s legal and doesn’t result in harassment of other internet locations.

I pretty much knew that she would be on her way out with the #RedditRevolt, where after an abrupt and unexpected firing of a popular moderator (which wasn’t her call, and WON’T be reversed with the new chairman), much of the rest of the moderation staff revolted, going on strike.  This strike was driven by the forces for good instead of evil – they were protesting the lack of decent procedures and tools to actually moderate against the mouthbreathing troll brigade that haunts Reddit’s underbelly.  These trolls captured this momentum and built upon it, ultimately leading to her demise.  But the sad truth is that she tried to give the trolls way more than her moderators wanted her to, but could not find a middle ground where anyone could be happy.

Some have tried to argue that Pao’s dismissal is proof of sexism in the tech world – that a man would not have been fired in the same situation.  I disagree – Pao had clearly lost control of the situation, which had resulted in a flurry of bad press about the company appearing in mainstream outlets, and its not unusual for executives, particularly CEOs with ‘interims’ attached to their title, to take the fall in these scenarios.

That being said, I do believe that the blatant misogyny that Peo was subjected to – the unrealistic expectations, the slanders, the gendered insults – would never have been levied against a male CEO with a similar resume, and so this scenario would not have appeared for a man who delivered the same results.  And I also do believe that Pao is probably delighted to finally have reprieve after 9 months of hell.


  1. The funniest thing about this was all of those “women can do nothing wrong, it’s always sexism!” articles saying that **this would never have happened to a male CEO**.

    Let me bring up a few examples:

    The probably most fitting comparison is this, yet it apparently wasn’t “misandry” that drove it’s users to out “moot”: http://www.engadget.com/2015/01/22/moot-retires-4chan/

    Then there’s CEO Brandon Eich, he got shit on by the entirety of the “tech press” for nothing that had to do with the performance of his job, but the crime of supporting certain politics with his private money: https://blog.mozilla.org/blog/2014/04/05/faq-on-ceo-resignation/

    He even had platforms like OK Cupid blocking FireFox “until he is gone”: http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2014/04/04/mozillas-brendan-eich-persecutor-or-persecuted/

    We’ve had Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella shit on repeatedly by the collective press because of an off-hand comment he made about being for meritocracy: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/nadella-s-rapid-apology-limits-fallout-from-sexist-gaffe-144205855.html
    “It’s not really about asking for the raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along,” Nadella said, as if he was unaware of the substantial pay gap between men and women of equal qualifications in the technology industry.

    “That’s good karma. It will come back,” Nadella added, as the audience at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference sat silently.

    Criticism was swift and fierce, starting with Harvey Mudd College president Maria Klawe, who was Nadella’s questioner on stage and sits on the Microsoft board.

    But there’s very good examples in gaming, let’s talk about Xbox CEO Don Mattrick that was largely held responsible and made fun of for the Xbox One debacle and his “nuclear submarine” quote: http://www.playstationlifestyle.net/2013/06/11/don-mattrick-on-if-you-live-in-a-nuclear-submarine-and-have-no-internet-get-a-360/ till he (was) left: http://gamerant.com/don-mattrick-leaves-microsoft-zynga-ceo/

    Let’s talk about EA CEO John Riccitiello dubbed “Rigatoni” and made fun of with typical Italian stereotypes or sometimes depicted as Emperor Palpatine: http://thesocialrev.com/forum/showthread.php?t=108685 while his company was dubbed the “Worst Company In America”: http://consumerist.com/2013/11/06/ea-ceo-says-winning-worst-company-in-america-title-was-wake-up-call/ http://www.forbes.com/sites/danielnyegriffiths/2013/03/18/john-riccitiello-steps-down-as-ea-ceo/

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xP9tlKpnjRE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-LE0ycgkBQ

    Or let’s talk about Activisions Bobby Kotick that is often displayed as the ruler of hell: http://gamingbolt.com/bobby-kotick-thinks-bungie-is-the-last-remaining-high-quality-independent-developer or some form of snake-monster: http://gamingbolt.com/bobby-kotick-disses-schafer http://www.playstationlifestyle.net/2010/07/15/bobby-kotick-is-a-%E2%80%9Ctotal-prick%E2%80%9D-says-schafer/ http://www.gamespot.com/forums/system-wars-314159282/bobby-kotick-up-for-reelection-at-activision-28583766/

    There was even a New York Times article where he was vying for sympathy called – At Activision, a Hero and Villain, Zapped Into One: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/16/business/bobby-kotick-of-activision-drawing-praise-and-wrath.html
    Mr. Kotick, the C.E.O. of Activision Blizzard, the world’s largest video game publisher, inspired a stocky, auburn-haired character named Money Sack, who, in a game created by a competitor and a former employee, wields a wide grin and an automatic weapon. In another video, Mr. Kotick pops up from behind a fortified wall, and in a husky, ominous voice says he’ll set the price of his biggest game, Call of Duty, to “your soul” — a dig at its cost. Then fiery lasers shoot out of his eyes, wreaking havoc on an apocalyptic fantasy world. In several online photographs he is depicted as the Devil, with red horns against a Hades-like background.

    On this particular Sunday, it’s those Photoshopped horns that really irk Mr. Kotick. He is seated at a corner table in the cavernous breakfast room of the Pierre hotel, across the street from Central Park, shaking a leg nervously and whispering in a conspiratorial hush.

    “Think about what it’s like for my dating life when the first picture that comes up is me as the Devil,” says Mr. Kotick, who is recently divorced. “You see all this chatter and you realize that they game the search results. These super-sophisticated 19-year-olds are smarter than our expensive P.R. firm.” (His publicist, Steven Rubenstein, shrugs sheepishly.)

    Somehow it’s never “misandry” and “man hate” whenever something happens to male CEOs… why it’s like I smell a… double standard where certain parts of the population can be held accountable for their actions and what they say while others cannot.

    But the funniest thing about this is you have an article titled “Smedley vs. Lizard Squad” after one titled “Ellen Pao and Misogyny” WITHIN THE SAME DAY and you are too idiotic to notice the double standards you are applying to the both incidents. You should have named it “Smedley and Misandry” instead.

    • Damion Schubert

      July 13, 2015 at 3:58 pm

      So, this is pretty much a logic abortion. The existence of bad shit happening to other people does not mean that Misogyny is not in existence in other instances. The existence of racial attacks elsewhere doesn’t make any of those racial attacks.

      In short, this response is really dumb, and the internet’s IQ has been reduced by you typing it up.

      • Ira Shantz-Kreutzkamp

        July 13, 2015 at 6:23 pm

        I don’t know, maybe it’s how none of them are being lambasted for being men or manly.

        Though that bit about “trusting the system” to do right by women is a masterpiece of manful ignorance.

      • Your entire existence is a logic abortion.

        If “something bad” happens to a woman, no matter what it is, like she is being held responsible for her actions or even looked at the wrong way = MISOGYNY!

        If “something bad” happens to a man and Gawker Media/Vox Media affiliates decide to shit on them to ruin their reputation, accuse them of rape or sexual assault (Max Temkin, Brad Wardell) or try to destroy their careers because they made a joke (Tim Hunt) or wore a tacky shirt it’s perfectly normal because it’s “allowed” to hate on men and you don’t see that as “MISANDRY!” even when it comes from sources like Jezebel or The Mary Sue.

        You are an unparalleled hypocrit with a cognitive dissonance so great it could act like its own field of gravity.

        • Damion Schubert

          July 18, 2015 at 8:12 am

          So, you seem to be under the impression that what happened to Tim Hunt or #shirtstorm dude is misandry. You are mistaken, and you don’t appear to know what you’re talking about. As an example, Tim Hunt displayed mindblowing sexism in his tirade, and earned the derision that he got for his sexist views.

          Ellen Pao underwent the trifecta of sexist abuse from the boards of Reddit: attacks before she’d done ANYTHING as the CEO of the company based solely on her sexual discrimination suit, highly gendered language,often extremely sexualized in nature (i.e. discussing the desire to rape her, or the general roominess of her vagina), and dismissing her tenure off-handedly because of her diminished capacity as a woman. These all happened, and were not infrequent on the boards of reddit, particularly in RedPill and KiA. This is misogynistic claptrap, and anyone who has run a community knows that if you don’t get this shit off of your service quickly, these attitudes quickly get aimed at other women as well.

          Because you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about, the rest of your insults bother me not one iota.

          • Tim Hunt made a joke, there is also finally a recording showing that this is true: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/science/article4501733.ece

            His reputation and career was ruined by an opportunistic gender ideologue going by the name of Connie St Louis: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3141158/A-flawed-accuser-Investigation-academic-hounded-Nobel-Prize-winning-scientist-job-reveals-troubling-questions-testimony.html for no other reason than that she probably could and thanks to people like you that believe absolutely anything that comes from those quarters without examining it or engaging in the basest bit of logic. This is what you did to Brad Wardell too, which you thankfully acknowledged and apologized for: http://www.zenofdesign.com/in-which-i-acknowledge-and-apologize/

            It’s rather sad that you didn’t take that experience as some sort of lesson for the future. I find the allegation of “misandry” in this case a lot more plausible than “misogyny” in most cases that word is used.

            “attacks before she’d done ANYTHING as the CEO of the company based solely on her sexual discrimination suit”

            You mean the HIGHLY PUBLICIZED sexual discrimination suit that SHE LOST BECAUSE IT WAS FOUND TO BE BASELESS and revealed that she herself treated other female employees like shit? What could this possibly have to do HER AS A PERSON instead of HER AS A WOMAN? The outlash against her further COULDN’T possibly have been because of the interviews about how Reddit wasn’t a “free speech platform” anymore and the attempts to introduce ever more censorship and ban more “offensive” Subs, or the firing of various Reddit employees (INCLUDING a rather prominent woman with Victoria and a dude that was suffering from leukemia)?

            As for the rest, same thing, as if John Riccitiello or Bobby Kotick haven’t been compared to satan and the Sith, been called dicks and assholes and insulted in other (sometimes also very ethnically specific) ways with targeted insults across message boards? The sad thing is that you are walking around wearing horse blinders and not even realizing it.

          • Damion Schubert

            July 19, 2015 at 11:58 pm

            It’s possible to make a joke that is so bad that it gets you fired. It happens more often than you should. This joke represents the current state of the scientific field, which makes it very hard for women to get in and progress. As the New York Times reported just this morning, scientific inquiry is still a sausage fest that is still ripe with sexual harassment and, occasionally, assault. Even his partner in winning the Nobel Prize has called out this as being unacceptable. These words weren’t condemned because the SJWs got their panties in a bunch – they were condemned because the attitudes are prevalent right now in the fields, and they’re dangerous for women, and bad for science.

            Describing criticism of him as misandry is kind of like describing criticism of the Ku Klux Klan as racism against whites – unbelievably brazen in its projection.

            Ellen Pao was condemned for her sexual discrimination case before anyone knew it was baseless. Also, we have a pretty good comparison of men vs. women – after Ellen’s ouster, the founders admitted it was actually them that fired Victoria, and that no, they had no intention of hiring her back. The number of fucks that were given by KiA and the Redpillers? Absolutely zero.

            In short, you sure wrote a lot of words. Perhaps you should try writing some that don’t crumble upon minimal cursory examination and comparison with reality.

          • It’s been known that Tim Hunt’s comments were intended as a joke for over a month now. This is not under contention, and was known before Tim Hunt had even left the conference.

            Anyone promoting a recording as somehow being new information simply hasn’t kept up with what his critics have been saying – rather ironic for a group of people who have been very loudly hellbent on arguing the exact wording of Tim Hunt’s ‘joke’.

            Tim Hunt’s critics have been addressing it as a joke since several days before the likes of the rat tabloids began trying to defend it as ‘just a joke’. His critics found it offensive *as a joke* and found his follow-up excuses and explanations to be doubly offensive and worryingly indicative of some sort of sub-surface sexism.

            His main critics have certainly addressed his comments as a joke, with the exception of Connie St Louis, who – contrary to the assertions of the Daily Mail and a failed MP – wasn’t the main critic and was certainly not the ringleader.

            This construction of an entirely false narrative by Tim Hunt’s defenders is breathtaking in its hypocrisy and blatancy, as is the decision to scapegoat and witchhunt Connie St Louis for what was the actions of several people.

  2. Daniel Minardi

    July 13, 2015 at 10:09 pm

    If she was too thin-skinned for this process, then she was too much of a mewling baby to actually handle being a CEO of a 160-million user free speech platform.

    • Too thin-skinned for what? Taking the heat for someone else’s decision? Someone else who is still currently in a leadership position at Reddit. And who wasn’t gotten even the tiniest fraction of the abuse dumped on Pao because of his decision.

      I guess you think this means the man has the thicker skin. And I suppose you’re right: it’s a lot easier to keep your skin thick when there’s not a mob clawing it off of your body in a frenzy. It’s amazing that Pao has any skin left after the baying blood-thirsty assholes at Reddit were through with her.

    • Damion Schubert

      July 14, 2015 at 4:18 am

      Sorry, I’m not buying what you’re selling. Ellen Pao underwent a level of invasive, creepy level of bullshit that was almost entirely instigated and maintained in the early days by the worst misogynistic subcenters of reddit, including Redpill and KiA. Her board members — all of whom are vastly experienced with reddit’s ins and outs – describe her treatment as shocking and awful. You can also take a look at what DavidReiss666 has to say. In short, the people who actually know what’s going on and know where the awful is on Reddit were aghast by the level of abusive, sexist, racist bullshit she recieved. Because it was fucking unprecedented.

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