MRAs: What do feminists do for men? ALSO MRAs: Why should men care about women?

Female engineers: They’ve been there all along

By David Futrelle

Two days ago, a young Men’s Rights Redditor called PropaneElephant decided to “commemorate” the 30th anniversary of the École Polytechnique Massacre in a uniquely MRA-ish manner: by typing out a screed demanding to know why he, as a man, should give a shit about female engineers.

“First,” he began,

I would like to take a moment to commemorate the fatal event that occurred 30 years ago on this day, the École Polytechnique Massacre.

Normally, when someone makes a statement like this, you can assume that they’re talking about commemorating the victims of the shooting, 14 female students at an engineering school. But it quickly becomes clear that Mr. Elephant’s views are closer to those of the killer, who targeted female engineering students in an attempt to strike a blow against feminism.

After getting the “commemoration” out of the way, Mr. Elephant launches an attack on one of his teachers who used the anniversary of the tragedy to make broader points about the discrimination that women going into mostly male fields like engineering have faced over the years.

Today, one of my teachers decided to bring up this topic by having us create a list of jobs that women wouldn’t typically do, then showing us a video of women working in the engineering field. The point of her lesson was to show us the stereotypical ideology that women were unsuitable for certain jobs back in the day, and how that has transformed into women working in higher level jobs nowadays.

But apparently Mr. Elephant felt that this discussion of women in engineering was deeply flawed because it had too many women in it.

The video was discouraging, it felt like a punch in the face. There were women, and only women. Women, women, women. Women’s rights, women are being paid less than men, women should become engineers. Why would I, a man, want to care about female engineers?

As I read this, I thought about the extraordinary failure of empathy required to type out this last sentence on the anniversary of the cold-blooded murder of fourteen female engineering students.

I also thought about the number of times I’ve seen MRAs indignantly ask what feminism has ever done for men — and then dismissing every example given to them showing exactly what feminism has done for men. I thought about the feminist friend of mine who volunteers at a rape crisis center that serves those of all genders; I thought of the feminists I know who work at domestic violence shelters that provide shelter and service not only for women but also for men fleeing female abusers. I then thought about the giant pile of nothing that MRAs have offered both of these groups of men in crisis.

Back to Mr Elephant, still ranting:

Instead of forcing feminism upon us and telling young girls to become engineers simply because they’re a woman, scrap the idea of talking about equality on school grounds entirely, or talk about equality instead.

Huh. Stop talking about equality and talk about equality? Has Mr Elephant simply lost the plot altogether?

Women are being given too many advantages over men. There are women’s programs that give scholarships to only women and organizations that unnecessarily discuss gender equality issues that don’t exist anymore.

Dude, you’re madder about being “forced” to watch a short film on female engineers than you are about the man who murdered fourteen future female engineers, so obviously there are still “gender equality issues” in the world.

And my teacher didn’t stop there. She then had us make a list of jobs that men wouldn’t do and showed us a video of men working as nurses. What the fuck? You’re telling all girls in the class to aim higher and telling us to aim lower? How does that solve anything?

Er, dude, the point was to get you to ask yourself why jobs in fields that are mostly female tend to pay less than jobs in fields that are mostly male But evidently this is too much for the big brained Mr Elephant, who sees the exercise only as a sneaky feminist attempt to get men to “aim lower.”

Showing us a video of all the innocent women murdered 30 years ago and then showing us a video to promote engineering? That contradicts. Why do you think women would want to work in engineering after you show us a video about the women who were killed for that reason? And besides, people don’t openly discriminate against women that much nowadays.

Once again the whole point of the exercise whooshes right over Mr. Elephant’s head.

After a paragraph complaining similarly about an anti-bullying video shown in class on another occasion, Mr. Elephant wrapped up his rant:

In short, avoid talking about discrimination in school as it makes certain groups look better than others. Focus on equality instead.

Stop talking about equality and talk about equality!

Forget the past, it only makes people feel worse.

A “history is bunk” for our time.

Mr Elephant’s post received, naturally, dozens of upvotes and zero criticism from the Men’s Rights crowd on Reddit.

Well, maybe one bit of mild criticism: One commenter suggested that Mr Elephant had been wrong to suggest that stereotypes of women as unsuited for careers like engineering are a thing of the past. Because the commenter, right this minute, thinks that this stereotype in indeed true:

“Women are still unsuitable for certain jobs,” he wrote

This is why we have to listen to all this bullshit about how we have to change STEM so that women will be able to work there, instead of women just doing the damn job. Stereotypes are usually accurate.

Yeah, not so much — though stereotypes about Men’s Rights Activists being angry, narcissistic man-babies are certainly more accurate than most, as Mr. Elephant’s post and the welcoming response from other MRAs both make clear.

Send tips to dfutrelle at gmail dot com.

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67 replies on “MRAs: What do feminists do for men? ALSO MRAs: Why should men care about women?”

Engineers, though, will make silly dumb fantasy projects on a public works budget that are physically impossible or poorly developed or are actively, wildly dangerous to human beings and have zero remorse or worry that their crappy work could be responsible for thousands of deaths (or that they’re getting paid for failing horribly). Maybe because it’s a major where smug, not-actually-as-bright-as-they-consider-themselves self-centered STEM douchebags tend to flock; I don’t know.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of assholes in my profession.

The Canadian engineering school that I went to did at least try to drive home how devastating shoddy engineering can be. We had a full week of class dedicated to studying a bunch of horrific engineering disasters and driving home how, if we weren’t careful with our assessment, we could be responsible for dozens, or hundreds, or thousands of deaths. It’s been ten years now, and I still remember how bone-chilling it was, learning about the Vajont Dam disaster.

It really freaks me out when I encounter engineers who are so blase about the things they design. And it’s scarily not that uncommon an experience for me.

For thoses who have seen the Chernobyl mini-serie, Dyatlov the chief engineer is actually an archetype reasonably common in engineering in my experience. Some one who just know how everything should work, and don’t double check with reality or take additional precautions.

(note : the real Dyatlov was just as incompetent, but significantly less of an asshole)

Similarly, engineers are more prone to conspirationism partly because a significant fraction of them don’t look at facts but apply a worldview to explain what should and should not happen.

Part of that guy misogyny clearly stem from a similar sentiment of knowing ‘how the world work’ and not trying to see if the world is that way indeed. I mean, it’s obvious he didn’t stop one moment to see if by chance nurses aren’t better, or equal, or impossible to compare, to engineering, and that’s not the only moment where I had the impression he did not even try to think.

@ Vicky P

I’m have no doubt you will have been brilliant! I hope Friday brings the news you deserve; I’m sure it will.

[That] was discouraging, it felt like a punch in the face. There were men, and only men. Men, men, men. Men’s rights, men are being paid more than women, men should become [every job aside from mothering or laundering].

Said every women in the history of the world, at some point in time, about everything.

Hey Elephant? Maybe you could let the clue punch you in the face. It’s big enough.

(p.s. to the Mamotheers: I was a first year student at Carleton U. in Ottawa at the time of the massacre. It took years for me to really grasp and process what had occurred.)

I know when I started my engineering degree at Waterloo, we got shown the film from the Tacoma Narrows Bridge the first week. Watching a concrete and steel bridge twist in the wind like a fabric ribbon isn’t something you soon forget, especially when you see the cars and the guy trying to run off the bridge for scale.

When I started my Masters degree, I took a course from the Systems Design Engineering school on system failures and interface design. Where we learned, among other things, that in order to scram the Three Mile Island reactor you had to go to a big bank of four switches on a wall and throw three of them down and one of them up. Who’s going to remember that in a panic situation?

One of the big problems with engineering culture is the whole ‘smarter and more rational than thou’ attitude so many have, which not only makes many more gullible and more prone to failure because they refuse to double-check themselves, but they then also forget that they’re dealing with end users who, even assuming they’ve read the manual, may forget because it’s an emergency situation and they haven’t ever had to do this before. It’s the whole Scott Adams/Dilbert ‘cow-orker’ victim blaming: insisting the system would have worked just fine if the users weren’t so stupid, but also refusing to actually do anything that would make it better to use or less likely to be misused.

@Jenora Feuer

even assuming they’ve read the manual

That’s a big assumption. Like EULAs and other terms and conditions, almost nobody actually reads manuals. I typically do for things that have manuals, but fewer and fewer things have manuals these days.

@Naglfar – I KNOW! I miss having video game manuals so much!!! I’d buy a game, and then we’d still be doing errands, so I’d just read the manual until I could go home and actually play the game.


Re: Design strategies – I believe in leaving as few wrong choices for the end user to get frustrated by as possible. Whenever I’m making a spreadsheet (ILU spreadsheets), I always try to lock them down *as much as possible*.

Is there an easier way to do this? Then let’s do it that way. Is there a way for the computer to do most of this? Like that, please.

It always boggles my mind when I see complex google spreadsheets that don’t lock things down with permissions in any way. Yes, permissions are SUPER ANNOYING to deal with, but that means that only the spreadsheet wizards can accidentally delete your complex if/then formula, and they probably know how to fix it when they realise what they’ve done.

(also, just *never* put anything in cell a1. That is where everyone starts! I work with lots of keyboard shortcuts, and I used to see lots and lots of ZZZZZ (for ctrl+Z) in that cell, haha. Even Wizards will do this. That cell is blank!)

In short: when I’m making something, I assume that it’s 3PM on Friday, deadlines are looming, the clients have just contacted you and they want something completely out of left field, the coffee machine/kettle is BROKEN, and the user just wants this to WORK without needing to remember any fiddly bits.

I think it’s my job to try to anticipate how someone is going to use this, and then do at least one round of “what worked? what didn’t?” and then try to fix what I can for things that didn’t work. (though this is sometimes subjective and contradictory. HUMANS!!!!!!! lol)

Isn’t that how making something for someone else to use is supposed to work????????


I miss having video game manuals so much!!! I’d buy a game, and then we’d still be doing errands, so I’d just read the manual until I could go home and actually play the game.

I was never really into gaming, but whenever I used to buy new software or hardware I would spend hours reading the manual whenever I had to kill time. It helped me familiarize myself with a lot of programs to just study the manual in my spare time. Same with non-computer products, like cars.

Most of the spreadsheets I make are for my own use only, so I’m usually not super concerned about permissions. Whenever I make spreadsheets for anyone else to use I try to make them foolproof as much as possible like you mentioned.

I knew too many engineering majors in college to take the Captain STEMlords seriously.

Sometimes I’ll see an adulatory mention of Scott Adams on Facebook. My stock response: as an observer and analyst of contemporary culture and politics, Scott Adams is a financially successful cartoonist.

Oh, I’m well aware it’s a big assumption. I do embedded software development, and I’ve complained a few times that we really need someone with more UI design experience here. (I have enough to recognize some of the most common mistakes, but I do not consider myself an expert.)

My main comment above is really, that there is a design concept called ‘the principle of least surprise’. Try not to surprise the user of the system any more than necessary, especially not with things that can’t be reversed.

You can’t make people do the right thing, but you can at least make it more difficult to do what is obviously the wrong thing, and make sure it doesn’t break if you do the wrong thing. (As an example, there are ‘fuzz’ utilities that throw random data at programs and drivers to see if they crash when they can’t understand the input.) That takes effort that a lot of people aren’t willing to put in, though.

@Jenora Feuer

I’ve complained a few times that we really need someone with more UI design experience here

I’ve done some software development work in the past and I had a similar problem. To me, all the UIs made intuitive sense because I designed them, but other people were confused, so I’d often end up redesigning multiple times. I agree with your point about making it harder for people to do the wrong thing.

Probably the hardest principle of UI design is: “Simple things should be easy. Complex things should be possible.”

Most UI systems can do one or the other well, but it is a lot more difficult to do both. Either options that sophisticated users need get left out entirely, or the interface gets so cluttered that casual users can’t find anything. Trying to hit the balance on this was the main reason for the ‘ribbon’ interface in Microsoft Office.

(If you want to see an off-the-rails extended rant on this, look up Tantacrul on Youtube, particularly “Music Software & Bad Interface Design: Avid’s Sibelius” which pretty much turned ‘Sibelius crashed’ into a meme. He spends a lot of time complaining about how badly the designers mis-used the ribbon interface, putting options in places they had no reason to be.)

@Jenora Feuer

(If you want to see an off-the-rails extended rant on this, look up Tantacrul on Youtube, particularly “Music Software & Bad Interface Design: Avid’s Sibelius” which pretty much turned ‘Sibelius crashed’ into a meme. He spends a lot of time complaining about how badly the designers mis-used the ribbon interface, putting options in places they had no reason to be.)

I’ve seen a few other rants by Tantacrul but not this particular video. I might watch it later. I’ve never liked Sibelius, I prefer MuseScore which is free and easier to use if missing a few features.

Aaahh fuck. editing shat through my hands and now my longass post looks stupid.

EDIT: Aaaannd it’s gone. For now. Don’t know if forever.

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