Apparently, female software engineers should cut their left tit off

According to Martha Lane Fox that is:

Now what has this got to do with the internet? Well, I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, because I think we need to take some inspiration from these nomadic peoples, and we need to create a new army of women, of warrior women, and we need to do it giving them the digital tools of today.

And that warrior army?

One of the reasons that I was so keen to go to Mongolia was because I was studying ancient history. As part of our course we’d studied Herodotus, and Herodotus had written about the peoples of the Altai mountains, the backdrop to where we were, and how they had this incredible army of women, women who were so brilliant at their jobs that some of them would cut their breasts off so that they could fire arrows from horseback.

Not sure it’s going to catch on really.

41 thoughts on “Apparently, female software engineers should cut their left tit off”

  1. It’s also quite hard to work out what difference a left one would make to using the relatively short, laminated recurve horsebow, was used by the nomad tribes of Cental Asia.
    Bottom limb of the string doesn’t go anywhere near the jugs.
    I would affect using the English long-bow.

  2. Also, does everyone else notice how armies marauding the land and butchering everyone is just fine and dandy when it is romantic brown-skinned folk doing it?

  3. MLF strikes me as one of the people who either had one good idea, or happened to be in the right place and meet the right person, or something like that.

    She’s really just not very good on anything. “Surely with a bit more imagination we could join up a bit more of the chain. Even if you think that only a fraction of those 800,000 unemployed women would like a role in the technology sector, it’s got to be worth giving it a shot.”. So learn to fucking code, then. Plenty of places to do it for free. Prove to someone you can do it and get a job. I worked at a place where they hired a local junior guy with no qualifications – he could just prove he had the ability.

    And one of the reasons there were so many women in computing in the past? Because it was a whole different industry where companies hired smart people, had to train people, and once trained, they were stuck with people. And it was nearly all done in large companies that pretty much never fire people. I worked with a lot of women in the 80s and 90s and most of them just couldn’t cut it. Maybe 20% were any good. Of those, none of them were doing skunkworks projects that gave people an edge. Today, you won’t get hired if you don’t have proof of prior work – either you built something, or you have a degree in computer science. And women do neither of those things.

  4. I wonder if part of her course was studying how ancient sources are massively unreliable and weren’t even close to being objective historians?

  5. Did Herodotus write anything about how much tax these women paid?

    If not, then, candidly, he was a neoliberal troll.

  6. @The Stigler
    I’ve worked with a number of women coders over the years. Few were *really* interested in the job. They’d do the work, and, generally, do a good job of it. But they worked their hours, nothing more.

    I wouldn’t argue that the women probably had more things to worry about at home, but the fact is that they were competing with guys who would work 10 hours a day, read computing magazines when they weren’t coding, and were happy to get in at the weekend to code some more.

    If you’re a manager looking for someone to give an important project to, you’re going to look first at someone prepared to go the extra mile or two.

  7. @Steve Crook
    Almost matches my experience:

    I’ve worked with a number of women coders over the years. Few were *really* interested in the job. They’d do the work, and, generally, do a good job of it. But they worked their hours, nothing more.

    Agree; a lot of women get their coats at “home time”. From the perspective of 15 years contracting, following a similar time as a permie, I’d say they’re the smart ones

    Ditto next para – I’d say 95% of the people I worked with (developers, mainly) never had *any* interest in their chosen profession outside of work hours. And that’s really disappointing.

    What I have noticed with female developers is that they were ALL quietly competent. Maybe I’ve just been lucky. Sure some were less experienced, and when I was in more senior positions or mentoring them, I really had to push them into making more mistakes*. But it was always worth it. Managing male developers was often the opposite. The good ones would often blunder, but would then have to be told to stop digging and rethink.

    * Of the non public, non catastrophic kind – for those unused to thinking this way. I wouldn’t start teaching SQL with the DROP TABLE command.

  8. David Moore said:

    Next thing they’ll be teaching Amazons really existed.

    They were a tribe of athletic and fearsome librarians.

  9. “Those were the days, yes they were, those were the days.
    Those were their ways, miracles everywhere are they now?
    They’re gone.
    Those were their ways, yes they were, those were their ways.
    Those were the days, yes they were, those were the days.”

    Ginger Baker

  10. “Right one surely, unless they are left-handed?”

    Nope, a right handed archer holds the string in their right hand and the bow in the left, so the string passes over the left side of the body.

  11. Bloke in Costa Rica

    I didn’t even realise that Martha Lane Fox was still a thing.

    It is Sunday, and I am at work, coding. On my day off I was learning the new ECMAScript 6 features and writing test harnesses so I could start incorporating them in our production code. Three of my machines at home are set up with a complete dev stack so I can work on ideas without having to trek into the office. Once I am in the office I can SSH back into my dev machines through my firewall and grab the code I was working on. I answer questions on StackExchange as well as ask them. I have Raspberry Pis and Arduinos scattered about so I can tinker with robotics or environmental sensing etc.. This is, I am afraid, a guy thing. It may not be the optimum work/life balance (although it didn’t stop me going to a very nice party last night) but it is what is required to a) get the job done and b) maintain my skill set so I continue to be employable.

  12. “Nope, a right handed archer holds the string in their right hand and the bow in the left, so the string passes over the left side of the body.”

    Oh, OK, but by that time most of the energy will have been released and the only worry is the twang of the string, for which I would have thought a bit of extra padding should suffice, although I confess to being unaccustomed to both archery and the wearing of brassieres.

  13. ‘ Once I am in the office I can SSH back into my dev machines through my firewall and grab the code I was working on’

    Free private Bitbucket repos are your friend

    On the topic at hand: I’ve worked with very few female devs but they have all been competent. The blokes have been very varied: shysters, blaggers, hopelessly lost, supremely arrogant, obviously brilliant, quietly nerdily competent, the whole gamut. All the women have been a tad Asperger-y – I’m sure Simon Baron-Cohen could do something there.

  14. Bloke in Costa Rica

    I already use Bitbucket. But I’m not going to commit every little bit of sketchpad stuff I write. Easier to just SSH in and grab it.

  15. Alex: if they’re trying for the famous Parthian shot (retreating from the enemy, at the last moment swivelling round in the saddle and shooting backwards over the left shoulder) then the left breast is exactly what would get in the way. Shooting forwards or moderately sidewards, not.

  16. So Much For Subtlety

    Rob – “I wonder if part of her course was studying how ancient sources are massively unreliable and weren’t even close to being objective historians?”

    Her father ought to have a few things to say if nothing else. One of which ought to have been that the ancient Greeks were not in touch with the Altai mountains or anything to do with the Mongols. The Amazons, in so far as they may or may not have existed, would have lived in the Ukraine. Although the ancient Greeks claimed they lived on the Black Sea coast of what is now modern Turkey.

  17. So Much For Subtlety

    Incidentally, MLF, who did a degree in History I believe, married a bloke she met when she was doing marketing or something for BT, who may or may not have had a degree in Computer Science. Not sure. However he does run these neat little “invitation only” events:

    Hoberman is also a co-founder of FoundersForum[8] which is a private network for digital and technology entrepreneurs. Founders Forum has been hosting invite-only events in London since 2006 and has since 2011 expanded to events in other countries such as the US, Brazil, India, Turkey and China. Speakers at the events have included prominent figures from the technology sector like Eric Schmidt, Reid Hoffman and Arianna Huffington. The events are by invitation only and Hoberman states that Founders Forum is a “meritocracy” and “Its anything but an old boys club”.[9] The 2015 London event has been criticised for not supporting female entrepreneurs. Jemima Kiss, the Head of Technology[10] of the Guardian wrote[11] about the lack of representation by women at the June 2015 London event. Kiss’s article states that there were 68 men speakers and 4 women speakers at the London 2015 event

    No, perish the thought. Not like an Old Boys network at all. Said the graduate of Oxford and Eton.

    It looks to me like she could have had words about this topic a little bit closer to home.

  18. Bloke in Costa Rica

    They’re not really classes. They’re syntactic sugar over the regular Object.prototype stuff. Of more interest to me is the object destructuring stuff, the spread operator/rest parameter, iterators and generators (which look a lot like Ruby enumerables). Of course it will be a while before most of this is supported.

  19. @ The Stigler & Steve Crook & Justin
    When I was 17 and learning programming, a young lady had to supervise me; a year or two later I worked under a Girton graduate. Neither fell down to your standards – the latter actually wrote to me, at Oxford, to tell me that she (and the culprits) had sorted out the problem with the translation software that had been exposed when I translated one of her programmes into Algol.
    It is perfectly possible for women to be good programmers.

  20. ” but by that time most of the energy will have been released and the only worry is the twang of the string”
    @SMfS
    Yeah! I thought the Mongol thing was a bit hopeful. It’s that modern distance distortion. The aluminium bird thing. Even the northern end of the Black Sea to Mongol country could have been a year’s trip back then. Average speed of travel’s around 2 mph for 8 hours/day. Because you’re not carrying high energy fodder, So the horses/draft oxen have to graze.
    The “Amazon” myth probably originates with the Scythians, who did have a culture of warrior women & did have a helluva reputation as bowmen. And the Scythians indeed lived north of the Black Sea from Eastern Ukraine into Russia. Gave one of Alexander’s generals an ass-reaming when he showed his face, thattaway.

  21. So Much For Subtlety

    john77 – “It is perfectly possible for women to be good programmers.”

    Yes. But it is just vanishingly rare. Which leaves several possible options. One is that they are not bright enough on average. Another is that they prefer to do other things. The third is that there is a vast Right Wing Conspiracy holding them down.

    We are still stuck with the third explanation. Except now they are moving into the “there are not enough role models” rationalisation. So we will have to put up with that for a decade or so. Eventually we may get around to the first or the second explanation.

  22. Oops. Missed the comment.
    “” but by that time most of the energy will have been released and the only worry is the twang of the string”
    Obviously never used a bow. There’s a reason for the arm guard you discover when you leave it off. It’s the twang of the string puts a hunting arrow into one side of a pig & out the other.

  23. If you don’t understand the above:
    When the arrow leaves the string they’re both travelling at 300 ft/sec+..Their maximum velocity. You get in the way of the string, before that point, you’re intercepting the inertia of the string plus the bow limbs, at that velocity. Something like being hit with a 20 oz hammer wielded by an enthusiastic carpenter.

  24. I took a field archery course once, and none of the women on the course seemed to feel a need to hack their boobs off. One seemed particularly talented at shooting the (foam animal) targets in the balls, though.

    I’m guessing that wouldn’t be recommended if hunting a real grizzly bear.

  25. @ SMFS
    One in three does not meet *my* definition of “vanishingly rare”
    when I started as a trainee progreamer in 1964 the “Mathematical Research” section had four male and two femasle staff; outside my work experience, I have a sister, son and first cousin once removed who are (or were in my sister’s case before she retired) programmers.
    There are many reasons why female programmers are rare, one of which is social pressure

  26. In my 30+ years as a computer jock, I never saw any difference in competence due to sex.

    But at the extremes, it goes to males. The absolute brightest, and the absolute idiots were males.

  27. Gamecock – same applies to male/female ability overall.

    I know almost nothing about the world of coding, but I do know that in professions with which I am familiar, women are prepared to work as psychotically hard as men.

    Generally this requires the sacrifice of their child-bearing years. As has been mentioned here before, there is really no equitable solution to this.

  28. So Much For Subtlety

    Gamecock – “In my 30+ years as a computer jock, I never saw any difference in competence due to sex.”

    There may be a slight selection problem there. Given that the vast majority of women do not choose to do computer science.

    MC – “I know almost nothing about the world of coding, but I do know that in professions with which I am familiar, women are prepared to work as psychotically hard as men.”

    You are working in an odd profession. Virtually all of the wage gap is actually a gap with married men. Who earn significantly more than unmarried men. Presumably because their wives are encouraging them to work themselves to an early death.

  29. Herodotus also wrote that people in some countries have black sperm, quoting him as a source on the History of Mongolia is beyond ridiculous. At best you can take his work on areas around Greece as something resembling the truth, the rest is all travellers stories and made up shit.

  30. Yes. But it is just vanishingly rare. Which leaves several possible options. Herodotus also wrote that people in some countries have black sperm, quoting him as a source on the History of Mongolia is beyond ridiculous. There may be a slight selection problem there. Given that the vast majority of women do not choose to do computer science.

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