Posted in: , ,

This rubs me the wrong way.

Ryan Tomayko is a well known technologist. In 2004 he published an article that is now taken down: How I Explained REST to My Wife.

Read the announcement:

After receiving a number of reasonable complaints about the gender-oriented nature of this article from people I respect very much, I've decided to take it down for good. While the dialog was never intended as commentary on the role of gender in technology, I'm convinced that it could too easily be taken that way and am not at all comfortable with that possibility.

Was this a blatantly sexist piece that treated women as dumb and unable to understand technology?

No it was not

I'm betting a fair number of non-technical people will find Ryan's explanations to his non-technical wife still leave a lot of it difficult to understand. On the surface the explanation seem simple, but it still depends on a mental "map" of what he is trying to explain that is not really obvious when mapped to the "real world".

But even if his choice in referring to her as "wife" and some details like the "sweeper" example might have been unfortunate, taking it down was a cowardly choice.

He could have changed "wife" to "Bob" and nobody would have batted an eyelid. He could've changed "sweeper" to "motorbike". He could have added a paragraph to apologize if someone found the original version offensive. On the assumption that the conversation was not real, but made up. If it was real, the criticism just becomes doubly idiotic.

Oh, wait, it was real:

p: Ugghh. I have to admit, this post does seem kind of sexist now that you mention it. It never occured to me that it might be taken as such. I didn’t mean to imply my wife was a layperson due to her being female. I use “explained to my wife” at work as a simple way of saying that something is being described in a way that you might be able to explain to layperson (like people who make buying decisions :) Of course, everyone at work knows that my wife is non-technical and also that she is one of the only people outside of work I get to have grown-up conversations with.

Dude, your wife must really love you to go through all that which was obviously of way more interest to you than to her!

It’s way more complex than that — you could write a whole post on it.

There’s a bit of context missing from the beginning of the post: I had been busy at work and hadn’t seen her much in the past week or so. When that happens she starts getting jealous of the laptop and wants to hover over my shoulder — that’s a sign, it means: put it down and pay attention to me. If I don’t heel to that hint, she’ll start asking me about whatever’s on the screen. If I’m lucky it’s vim and a terminal running screen, which freaks her out and she leaves. Otherwise, I’m usually in the browser or my newsreader. It just so happened that at this time, I was reading Roy’s Bio so she saw his picture and says, “Who is Roy Fielding??!?,” using the exact the same tone and inflection you might when saying “WTF?”

When this happens, I usually just say, “Oh, it’s nothing,” or something like, “it’s just some stuff about a thing.”

Anyway, the funny thing is that I wasn’t really trying to explain anything at first. It started out as a bit of joke — a be careful what you ask for type thing. But then she says, “Oh, I get it.” and I so I kept on going and the next thing I know we’re talking about polymorphism and URL canonicalization and all kinds of crazy shit.

She gets me going on purpose just so she can see my arms waving and the vein pop out of my head while I’m trying to describe this stuff. I don’t think she really pays all that much attention to what I’m actually saying.

Ryan posted that comment to the original text in 2006. Complaining about this is misguided "feminism". Taking it down in 2013 is just fucking idiotic.

Just say no.