J. Brad Hicks (bradhicks) wrote,
J. Brad Hicks

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System Outages and Pink Collar Ghettos

For the benefit of those of you who don't check your LiveJournal account at least once a day, LiveJournal just went though a slightly over 24 hour complete system outage, and parts of it are still being brought back up. Basically, despite fully redundant power supplies, the collocation facility that hosts their servers lost all power, and it would appear that bringing things back up was made more complicated by the fact that they're in the middle of a conversion from one database package to another. There'll be more details about it later; right now they're not that important.

Because LiveJournal.com is one of the busiest sites on the Internet, it became a minor news story. eWeek used it as an excuse to grind one of their favorite axes, namely that free Internet services are doomed, all doomed, and will never amount to anything. But pretty much everybody else, including sources as diverse from each other as Slashdot and Something Positive, spun the story in a way that took me completely by surprise: total contempt for LiveJournal's customers. What's more, the majority of Slashdot's membership expressed their contempt in the exact same way that Randy Milholland did, namely, by stereotyping all LiveJournal users as bubble-headed teenage girls. I guess that adult male writers like me, and arkhamrefugee, and theferrett don't exist in their world. No, that's not fair -- what's really going on is that they see us as aberrations, as unusual exceptions. No, it is 100% clear to half of the Internet, apparently, that other than a few people, what LiveJournal is really for is for teenage girls to obsess about their mundane high school lives.

brad Fitz got some nice smackdown in on the snobs at Slashdot, though, reminding them deep in the comments on that story that for all that their site is famous for the Slashdot effect, a tendency of Slashdot users to flash-mob web sites and crash them if they weren't set up to handle that much simultaneous traffic, it's never been Slashdot that's ever brought LiveJournal to its knees, but at least once it was the other way around when something he wrote on the front page of LiveJournal.com linked to Slashdot and the resulting rush of traffic nearly crashed Slashdot itself. Slashdot may be big and influential, but in terms of sheer number of users and influence on the Internet, Brad Fitz has a much bigger e-penis than "Cowboy Neal" does.

You know, alienne has been after me for months to get my journal off of LiveJournal. Her argument wasn't technical, it was social (for all that she's the one who introduced me to LiveJournal in the first place). She keeps telling me that I'll never be taken seriously as a writer as long as I'm on LiveJournal. And until today, I had no idea what she meant, let alone that she might be right. But you know, there's something I say about corporations that may be true of Internet subcultures as well. What I've been saying for a long time is that no matter how big a company gets, and no matter what companies it merges with, and no matter what other jobs or industries it branches out into, the company's "core DNA," by which I mean its corporate culture and norms, is set by the first industry that it was in. Well, one of the things that people were saying over and over again in that Slashdot article was to stop calling LiveJournal a blog site. To the snobby purists, LiveJournal isn't a blog site. Never mind that it has hundreds of thousands of people using it to blog. Since (in their opinion) it started out as a diary site, that's what it's going to be forever in their minds. And keeping a diary and reporting breathlessly on your daily life is seen as a pre-teenage girl's activity. And like all activities engaged in by more women than men, it is therefore by definition contemptible.

God, I hate that kind of crap. I may not be doctrinaire enough to make some feminists happy, but I'm sick and tired enough of seeing "pink collar ghettos" to be reminded why I think of myself as a feminist. Let me give you an unrelated by clearer example. As my ex-wife found out, from the 1950s through the 1980s, being a Technical Writer was an almost all-male profession. Technical Writers were by and large middle aged male engineers who'd been trained in technical writing so that they could maintain project and software documentation. As a job that was traditionally held by moderately successful male engineers, it was semi-high status, and paid very well. But then over the course of the 1980s, more and more college English departments offered courses and specialization programs in Corporate Communications, graduating fresh young college graduates who were ready-made professional Technical Writers. But college English departments are a largely female preserve, so an awful lot of the 1980s crop of technical writers were female. And not coincidentally, over the course of that decade, despite the fact that standards were rising and demand was rising, wages fell in the technical writing field. Why? Because it was no longer a high status job. And what made it low status? It was a job done by young women. It had stopped being thought of as a white collar job and had become a "pink collar" job, one with all of the prestige of a clerk-typist or a secretary (both of which were also higher-prestige jobs back when they were all-male jobs, oddly enough).

And now I find that in the eyes of much of the male world, I'm doing my writing in a pink collar ghetto, and am therefore contemptible. Who knew?
Tags: politics, tech, writing

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