If you are unfamiliar with the term brogrammer, read Tasneem Raja’s piece at Mother Jones. Actually, read it even if you already know all about them: “Gangbang Interviews” and “Bikini Shots”: Silicon Valley’s Brogrammer Problem | Mother Jones.
Raja’s overview of the “brogrammer,” anchored in a critique of Matt Van Horn’s SXSW talk, provides some insight into the recent rise of this term.
I’m happy to say that I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a “brogrammer” in the wild. When I raised the term with my students, they seemed to ridicule and reject the idea without missing a beat. Nonetheless the term makes me uneasy. It seems that start-up or programming spaces that embrace this ethos are regressing into what Raja rightly terms “testosterone-fueled boneheadedness.” Raja frames the brogramming trend as perhaps something that hapless men without Human Resources guidance fumble into. That seems to be letting them off the hook too easily.
I would perhaps push Raja’s suggestion further and argue that the intent to foster and propagate brogrammer culture is hostile to women. Not only is it demeaning to the women who are objectified by brogrammer tactics, it is alienating to the women who may need to share these spaces. It is hard to believe that any of these “brogrammers” could be completely clueless about the impacts of their behavior.
I suspect that the extreme hypermasculinity of the “brogrammer” is relatively scarce when they are considered as part of larger programming populations. However, the inanity and problematic gender politics of the brogrammer may also help focus attention on the often more subtle ways in which women are made to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome in male-dominated spaces. Raja outlines a few statistics on the issue of female programmers and the number of women heading up start ups, all of which she uses to suggest that the imbalance of women in programming and start ups is a larger problem than the brogrammer.
So while the brogrammer is a shudder-inducing term, the very thought of which makes me grind my teeth, his presence may have the potential to open up wider conversations about gender in tech spaces that tend to be male-dominated. And that is a conversation worth having. (more…)