Interesting Take From A Female Developer

This past weekend, I gave my first ever solo talk on WordPress development, with just a hint of UI love. I’ve taught classes on web/digital media and talk to/perform in front of lots of people all the time, but this was my first ever “stand up in front of a room of geeks and go”. It was awesome. I think I kicked ass. My code got the once-over and blessings of some developers that I and many others respect very, very much. And you know one of the comments I got over and over? “It’s amazing/surprising/something-allegedly-positive-but-expressing-a-contradiction-to-perception to see a female developer.” 5

Guess what.

That’s not a helpful comment

An interesting read from an Asian, female WordPress developer and how people like her shouldn’t be viewed as an anomaly.


6 responses to “Interesting Take From A Female Developer”

  1. More-worldly folks, those with larger & ‘higher’ levels of social experience, tend to learn not to express the obvious, when it may (oops) be unwelcome.

    When I was a kid, my small taste of it was … “(smile) You look like Paul Newman”. When I was little, I kinda liked the famous actor. When people wanted to interact with their perception of my resemblance to him (instead of “me”), I came to resent the guy, a bit.

    At our country general store, a nice girl works the counter, stocks shelves. She is very tall, I will say surely in excess of 6 and a half feet, very possibly pushing or actually, 7 feet. And she is massively and powerfully built.

    The store is actually a ‘tourist attraction’, very quiant & delightful to visitors. The post office is in one corner, so we go in the store often. It is also our gas station. Well … the looks we see on visitors faces when they see her … and my cringe when someone blurts out the obvious … are all-too-familiar.

    Of course, the truth is, she is quite startling. She is, indeed, quite an “anomaly”. As, indeed, are female web developers. “Wow! A girl! [hey! shush you fool!]”

    We hope that folks ‘catch’ themselves, before expressing their surprise at suddenly encountering a striking anomaly … when that anomaly is another human person, with feelings, who gets sensitive to having something that seems irrelevant, made the ‘center of attention’.

    But it will still happen.

  2. Stereotypes prevail. Many years ago I was surprised to get an interview at Western Electric for a marketing position – I quickly realized they should have been looking at a master’s degree candidate instead of someone just out of college. I noticed many Italian names on the doors as I walked down the hallway to the interview area. The man interviewing me was Italian as well. Hmm? What is going on here?

    At a certain point in the interview he asked me if I did a lot of Italian cooking and do I know how to make a good cannoli. Er, what? No.


    We need to get past this judging thing that is so prevalent in our society. Ted is right,ssh!

  3. I’ll tell you something: when I cook a cake or cookies, my wife and her friends also says “not bad for a man”. Am I bitching about it? Nope.
    Why? I’m not touchy.

    I just think that cited asian female developer is too touchy, she could focus on success, if she wants to be more like men (and that’s for sure) and not to scream all over that “they all are dehonesting/sexistic”.

    It was a compliment, for x’s sake. It wasn’t anything bad.

    You know – her last comment (and this blogpost) wasn’t helpful at all.

  4. As a professor I know no matter how good of a presentation I give, no matter how understanding I am to students’ personal problems, no matter how much information I was actually able to convey, that I will have 1 to 4 negative student ratings at the end of the semester – and 60+ good ones. I try to not focus on the whiners and it takes an effort to brush off the people who want to focus on the wrong things. If there is constructive criticism, I try to use it and be a better teacher.

    When I was making one of the adjustments to becoming crippled, I taught myself how to knit and how to draw. Older women would routinely criticize me for having learned how to knit from a book. I did not learn the approved “woman’s way” they told me. First, I had to learn from my mother or grandmother and not a book; Second, I had to be female, and not a broken down male disabled vet. I chose to keep knitting and no one turned up their noses at the gift of an unexpected hand knitted scarf. The woman who was criticized for being a female developer, needs to continue to do good work and no one who is competent will turn their nose up at good web wizardry because of the developer’s gender.

    Gender based criticism tells us more about the social inadequacies and phobias someone has, than our own professional deficiencies.

    We should do what we love, regardless if it is knitting (which, sadly, I am no longer able to do), or coding and being a web wizard. If gender is someone’s issues, leave them behind as we continue to live a life of creative excellence.
    Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  5. @John Sopa

    You think it’s about being touchy? Saying not bad for being a girl means that what you just did is not good. It’s good because your part of a inferior gender. You think it’s a compliment??

  6. @Boz

    Let’s compare what Helen actually heard say, with your paraphrasing, and see if we can identify the problem.


    “It’s amazing/surprising/something-allegedly-positive-but-expressing-a-contradiction-to-perception to see a female developer.”


    …not bad for being a girl…

    The way I see it, the problem is in the difference between implication and inference.

    What Helen quoted could easily be interpreted as the speaking expressing delight at seeing someone excel according to her own abilities, despite prevailing circumstances and prejudices. Such an interpretation implies no condescension whatsoever, and is both complimentary and encouraging.

    I say this not to counter the points Helen made in her blog post, but rather to challenge your gross paraphrase of what Helen quoted. If you read that quote, and all you hear is, “not bad for a girl“, then the problem lies in your own inference.


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