In Silicon Valley’s Push for Gender Equality, are Men the Real Victims?
In recent years, Silicon Valley has struggled to respond to a bruising series of sex scandals, to tone down what’s sometimes seen as a childish “tech bro” culture, and to rebalance a workforce in which as few as one-fourth of technical jobs are held by women.
But some workers in the Valley think the real victim here is men.
According to a new report in the The New York Times, more and more men in Silicon Valley are joining online and offline “men’s rights” groups that regard gender diversity efforts as an attack on them. Some believe that the standards for what qualifies as harassment are too stringent, and that gender equality in the industry is an unreasonable goal.
The rise of such beliefs, or at least a rising willingness to express them, may be best embodied by James Damore, the engineer whose memo deriding the abilities of women got him fired from Google last month. While many tech leaders were scornful of Damore and his worldview, expressions of support did come from heavyweights including Y Combinator founder Paul Graham. Since his firing, Damore has asserted his own victimhood at the hands of Google leadership.
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Nvidia engineer James Altizer, leader of a group called Bay Area Fathers’ Rights, told the Times that heightened awareness of discrimination against women is actually a “witch hunt” targeting men, spearheaded by “dangerous” human resources departments motivated by “zealotry.” According to the Times, Altizer’s views were shaped by a divorce. Another group that the Times says is growing is known as Mgtow, or “Men Going Their Own Way,” a “men’s separatist” movement that resists commitment and children.
Altizer may have missed the irony of his critique. In the Middle Ages, an estimated 60,000 accused witches were executed throughout Europe, and many thousands more were tortured. More than 70% of victims were women, and at least one historian has described the witch hunts as “genderized mass murder.”
The reactionary dynamic of the men’s rights movement is reminiscent of the rising visibility of white supremacists as members of racial minorities gain firmer social and economic footing. A few men in the Valley have even filed employment discrimination lawsuits linked to gender, directly paralleling a long string of lawsuits targeting affirmative action policies at universities.
Fortune has reached out to Nvidia seeking a response to Altizer’s comments.