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In the earlier draft, I also wrote about my wife’s experiences as a woman in computer science, which differed from Amy’s in some crucial ways.
(Imagine that: physics lectures as prized contraband! Lewin as harshly as he deserves, but—as students have been pleading on Reddit, in the MIT Tech comments section, and elsewhere—don’t For those who are interested, while the comment section starts out with a discussion of whether Walter Lewin’s physics lectures should’ve been removed from OCW, it’s now broadened to include essentially all aspects of the human condition. Walter Lewin, age 78—perhaps the most celebrated physics teacher in MIT’s history—has been stripped of his emeritus status and barred from campus, and all of his physics lectures removed from Open Course Ware, because an internal investigation found that he had been sexually harassing students online.I don’t know anything about what happened beyond the terse public announcements, but those who know tell me that the charges were extremely serious, and that “this wasn’t a borderline case.” I’m someone who feels that sexual harassment must never be tolerated, neither here nor anywhere else.So, take a stroll down memory lane to remember all of our past Word of the Year selections.Two weeks ago, prompted by a commenter named Amy, I wrote by far the most personal thing I’ve ever made public—what’s now being referred to in some places as just “comment 171.” My thinking was: I’m giving up a privacy that I won’t regain for as long as I live, opening myself to ridicule, doing the blog equivalent of a queen-and-two-rook sacrifice.What fascinates me about Aaronson’s piece, in which there was such raw, honest suffering, was that there was not one mention of women in any respect other than how they might relieve him from his pain by taking pity, or educating him differently. Aaronson is obviously a compassionate, well-meaning and highly intelligent man I’ll have more to say about Penny’s arguments in a later post—where I agree and where I part ways from her—but there’s one factual point I should clear up now.
When I started writing comment 171, I filled it with anecdotes from the happier part of my life (roughly, from age 24 onward): the part where I finally became able to ask; where women, with a frequency that I couldn’t have imagined as a teenager, actually answered ‘yes’; and where I got to learn about their own fears and insecurities and quirks.
Having been a lonely, anxious, horny young person who hated herself and was bullied I can categorically say that it is an awful place to be. Feminism, however, is not to blame for making life hell for ‘shy, nerdy men.’ Patriarchy is to blame for that.
I have seen responses to nerd anti-feminism along the lines of ‘being bullied at school doesn’t make you oppressed.’ Maybe it’s not a vector of oppression in the same way, but it’s not nothing. It is a real shame that Aaronson picked up Dworkin rather than any of the many feminist theorists and writers who manage to combine raw rage with refusal to resort to sexual shame as an instructive tool.
Our Word of the Year choice serves as a symbol of each year’s most meaningful events and lookup trends.
It is an opportunity for us to reflect on the language and ideas that represented each year.
Many of the tweets are full of the courageous clucks of those who speak for justice as long as they’re pretty sure their friends will agree with them: wow just wow, so sad how he totes doesn’t get it, expletives in place of arguments.