Few days ago, the jury in a Silicon Valley courthouse reached a verdict in a highly-publicized sexual discrimination trial involving a woman who worked for a well-known venture capitalist firm, KPCB. KPCB is one of the most successful venture capitalist firms of all time, and is responsible for funding companies like Google, Intuit and Netscape.
The plaintiff, Ellen Pao, claimed that she was passed over and fired because she was a woman. She was seeking $16 million in damages. After several days of deliberation, the jury found the defendant not guilty verdict on all counts.
Of course, I don’t deny that sexual discrimination exists. It absolutely does. There’s no doubt about it. Otherwise we wouldn’t be discussing it now and wouldn’t have laws against it. Just like any laws that protect people’s rights, these laws came about from real, concrete cases where a person’s freedom was limited in some way, shape or form.
Making a mountain out of a molehill
The main problem with sexual discrimination is that you can essentially label anything and everything as sexist behavior and still get away with it. Where’s the beginning and end? When is or isn’t something truly sexist? When is or isn’t something truly discrimination?
Think I’m being cynical? I’m not. Here’s a recent article in New York Magazine titled “Ellen Pao and the Sexism You Can’t Quite Prove,” where the female author considers it “sexist behavior” when a random person at a cocktail party asked her husband about his work but didn’t ask her:
Then Cocktail Party Guy asks me how our dogs are, and I answer, before pivoting the conversation back to work — and later rolling my eyes as we walk away. It is not impolite. It is not inappropriate. But it is still, at least in my mind, sexist.
If a woman can so readily consider not being asked the same question as her husband as “sexual discrimination,” then would such woman consider it sexual discrimination if she happened not to get promotion while a male co-worker did?
Of course. It doesn’t matter that there were perhaps other reasons for promotion or demotion such as merit or ability. Such women will naturally think everything that happens or doesn’t happen to them is because they’re women. As far as they are considered, everything is sexist.
The opposite of credible
At least the actual case would have set some precedent had the facts surrounding it not had been so strange and incogruent. First of all, she had a sexual relationship with a co-worker at the company who was already married to someone else. If a man would’ve done that, he would’ve been fired immediately on the spot. (Yeah, I know, all men are dogs.)
But that’s not all. Later when she did marry, she married a very “distinguished” businessman who also happened to be running a huge Ponzi scheme. The Ponzi scheme business failed and her husband ended up owing lots and lots of money to lots of people.
Alphonse “Buddy” Fletcher ran a hedge fund, Fletcher International, that is now bankrupt. He owes millions in unpaid legal bills and tax liens and the bankruptcy trustee described it as a Ponzi scheme.
Fletcher still owns several apartments in the storied Dakota on Manhattan’s Upper West Side while his defunct fund owes more than $140 million in court judgments.
Things like these make it really hard to believe that the true goal of her gender discrimination lawsuit was to fight for gender equality and not to, well, obtain funds to cover her husband’s pending court expenses.
The more you look into the details of the case, the more it appears that you either have be completely blind or deliberately choose to ignore real facts to think that she was a helpless angel who was discriminated against because she happened to be a woman and not someone who was extorting a very wealthy company lots of money.
Because if it was really about sexual discrimination and not money, then why sue for such an obscenely large sum? Why not sue for a much smaller sum? That’ll go much farther in showing others that you’re indeed trying to bring greater awareness to the tech community and not hijacking our legal system to execute a corporate raid.
Dubious double standards
All this brings up the question of dubious double standards that are so pervasive in American culture. Why is that when a Serbian man writes that “Serbia has beautiful women,” he’s immediately labeled as a “mysoginist” who “objectifies” women and has an instant which hunt launched against him, that if not stopped in time, can permanently wipe out his professional and personal reputation?
But, if a woman sues a company and loses in a court of law on all counts, she’s actually elevated and considered a heroine and a freedom fighter, even being compared to important civil rights figures such as Rosa Parks.
Ellen Pao is ‘a Rosa Parks’ for women in Silicon Valley http://t.co/V2p6q4X47w
— Al Jazeera America (@ajam) March 30, 2015
These double standards are the truly rotten part of Western society that pretty much no one chooses to talk about. Since we love to discuss various topics in our society, how about bringing “more awareness” in this area? Any takers? Doesn’t seem like it.
After all, she lost. Every single count against the defendent was dismissed. She should suffer the consequences, not immediately be heralded by millions of people and rewarded with job offers and bonuses. This is what annoys me, and should also annoy you, the most.
Kleiner Perkins may have won the case, but they lost in the court of public opinion. They came off like some mad men firm stuck in the 1970s — Nicole Sullivan (@stubbornella) March 28, 2015
I’m taking notes on who supports this verdict and what companies they work for so I can not use those products again. #ellenpao
— Melinda Byerley (@MJB_SF) March 27, 2015
The female moral hazard
When the 2008 financial crisis happened, the banks, who were completely bankrupt and insolvent because they held worthless debt, weren’t worried. They knew that the government would bail them out by giving them tax-funded money.
That’s called a moral hazard. It means you can take lots of risk because you know that even if you fail, you’ll be bailed out by someone else. In other words, it’s a purely win/win situation.
Sadly, the same has happened with sexual descrimination lawsuits. A woman can sue the company with the most dubious claims because she knows that if she wins, she gets a cool $16M in her pocket and gets coronated as a freedom fighter for women’s rights, but if she loses she still becomes a freedom fighter for the woman’s cause. The only outcomes that are possible: rich and revered or just revered. It’s essentially a win/win situation. That’s what makes it so dangerous.
The more that the women hijack women’s rights for a financial and personal gain, the more they trivialize the real cause of women’s rights. There’s only so many times that a boy can cry wolf until people stop believing him.
I know that if I was an employer, I would be very careful about hiring someone that presented such a huge liability. I’m certainly not alone.
I’ve worked in Silicon Valley for many years. I know how Silicon Valley thinks. I’ve been carefully monitoring social media and while, all the Ellen supporters were busy demonizing tech companies because “men don’t know how it feels to be a woman in the workforce,” the various employers were suspiciously quiet and not taking an official stand one way or another.
But behind closed doors, I bet they were already strategizing to themselves various ways of avoiding the “Ellen Pao” scenario.
It’s a huge liability that might not only take away your hard earned millions after losing a court case but can also destroy your reputation as a company who appears to not support these rights.
Naturally, this affects to whole economic system. It’s the heart of capitalism to have flexible labor markets. Companies cannot take risks and hire people because they won’t easily be able to fire such people in case of problems later on. Problems connected to an employee’s competency and having nothing to do with their gender. This would make American industries less competitive compared to countries without such just frivolous rules and regulations.
— Airport✨ (@CHOBITCOIN) March 28, 2015
The death of a culture
This case is one of those things that if you hadn’t been living in the West, your first reaction might be “WHAT THE FUCK!”
And rightly so. Yesterday, I told this story to my female friend here in Lithuania. Her first reaction, after rolling her eyes, “So ridiculous! She ruined her reputation by doing something so dumb.” Now I want you to imagine my friend’s reaction after I told her that not only she didn’t ruin her reputation but actually improved it?
I also doubt that she’s the kind of girl who would get upset and consider it sexist if someone asked me about work but didn’t ask her. She probably wouldn’t even pay attention to something so minor.
But this isn’t just about a woman who chose to enrich herself financially and morally at the expense of igniting a greater rift in an already fragile culturally. The problems are precisely the culture and society that not only allow these things to occur but also provides the perfect breeding ground for such cultural extortions in the first place.
It’s a culture that promotes more and more herd mentality and faux equality for the benefit of one person and at the expense of everyone else. A culture that allows frivilous lawsuits to be somehow connected to some pseudo-fight for various so-called rights and equalities.
And this cultural extortion and exploitation will continue until the monster is thoroughly fed and there’s no culture left for it to exploit, pillage and destroy.
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