Computer scientist shuts down mansplainer who told her to learn Java

Being a woman on the internet (or anywhere) is a frustrating experience.

Computer scientist and professor at the University of Maryland, Jen Golbeck, like many others on the internet, talks about her life experiences on Twitter. This includes the nuances of being a highly experiences computer whiz in a world where the software doesn’t always meet your needs:

Upon seeing this tweet, a man, Ludovic Reenaers, tweeted back at Golbeck, assuming she was an inexperienced Java user. He completely neglected to glance at her Twitter bio and suggested she learn the programming language, ending his message with an unwelcome, flirty winking face.

Golbeck corrected Reenaers on his assumption and called out the mistake in another tweet, pointing to a deeper problem with s.e.xism women in tech face today: how men automatically assume their inexperience or incompetence, s.e.xually harass them and give them a general sense of a patronizing “pat on the head” as you would a child for a job well done.

These three experiences all come together in what the internet calls “mansplaining.”

Golbeck told Mashable in an email that, while Reenaers’ comments were frustrating, a majority of the comments she received from her original tweet were supportive and, “have come equally from men and women. That has been great.”

She added that a lot (estimating around the hundreds) of the comments she has received from men in particular about the “mansplainer” expressed similar, dismissive sentiments, often telling her that the man’s comments “have nothing to do with s.e.xism.” She wrote in her email:

“I can understand that if you never see what it’s like to be a women in tech, you may not realize how much we get patronized and assumed incompetent by default. I tried to explain that to a few people, and a couple guys really got it and acknowledged that women probably got a lot more of these comments than male coders would. Some refused to acknowledge there’s a s.e.xist component, even though I point out they never get emoji winked at when people criticize their coding skills. The best threads you’ll find in there are men mansplaining that mansplaining doesn’t exist.”

Plenty of commenters, both male and female, stepped up to support Golbeck.

Golbeck also noted that her initial “troll” was not the only disappointing exchange she had. 

“There are a few guys who told me if I used nicer language or had a better attitude there wouldn’t be a problem,” she said. “The ‘you should just smile more!’ replies from other people are pretty great, though.”

One, of many, examples:

Ironically, and yet very non-ironically, one of Golbeck’s research areas is online harassment, including studying cases like Gamer Gate, the Ku Klux Klan and different hate groups. “I feel like it could have been worse,” she said, adding, “that said, the whole experience has been draining.”

Despite having to field an onslaught of frustrating comments, Golbeck at least enjoyed connecting with a community of her Java-punching peers.

“I’d say there’s a good 40 percent of comments with people just ranting about Java. So I kind of liked that I pulled in people who are as offended by the fact that the guy defended java as they are about the patronizing tone,” Golbeck said.

The darkest of times can bring us together as well.

Mashable has reached out to Reenaers and will update with any comments.

BONUS: Meet waffle Barb from ‘Stranger Things’


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