visigoth_female.jpgI know women have energy and strength to fight real sexism in this world. How do I know this? If you say a sexist word about women; or suggest a douche will make women more confident; or create an exploitive TV series about Playboy Bunnies; gals come out fighting like Visigoths.

Case in point:

The editor of a well-respected IT journal, IEEE Spectrum, felt that it was necessary to send out an email apology to thousands of readers over a headline on a story.

The article was about an easy to use computer circuit board called Arduino, and the headline of a tech alert that went out about the story said: “With the Arduino, Now Even Your Mom Can Program.”

Well, I guess people, probably women, got riled up and the editors at IEEE Spectrum got a cyber earful. This was the email the Editor sent out this morning to calm the storm:

Dear Members and Readers,

Please accept our sincere apologies for the headline in today’s Tech Alert: “With the Arduino, Now Even Your Mom Can Program.” The actual title of the article is “The Making of Arduino.”

I’m an IEEE member, and a mom, and the headline was inexcusable, a lazy, sexist cliché that should have never seen the light of day. Today we are instituting an additional headline review process that will apply to all future Tech Alerts so that such insipid and offensive headlines never find their way into your in-box.

Spectrum’s insistence on editorial excellence applies to all its products, including e-mail alerts. Thank you for bringing this error to our attention. If you have any additional comments or recommendations, do not hesitate to contact me or other members of the editorial staff.

Sincerely yours,

Susan Hassler
Editor in Chief
IEEE Spectrum
s.hassler@ieee.org

I emailed Hassler to find out how this horrible headline got past the editor, and whether it was a guy who wrote the offending line.

Her response:

Male. But it originated with one of the Arduino inventors, who said he made it with his nontech mom in mind. All best, Susan

Maybe it’s me, but the headline seems perfectly harmless, especially given the context of the interview. But still, it got women in particular up in arms.

I wrote back to Hassler and said I didn’t feel the headline was that offensive, and wondered if “women overreact to these types of things.”

Her response:

Yes quite a few women, and some men, were offended.

I like it when people stand up for what they believe in, but where’s the outrage when there’s real bias starring you in the face and you can do something about it? There are few women in IT today, both rank and file and in leadership ranks. (I’m addressing this issue in my MSNBC column next week.) And also few women in leadership throughout Corporate America, not to mention how many are still discriminated against.

We know the names of quite a few companies that have dropped the ball on promoting women and that have company wide systems that end up paying women less than men, but we do little, and we still buy their products.

Don’t you think outrage over a headline about mom seems pretty lame?

Yes, according to many of the comments on the Arduino story since the headline was changed.

This from rshuston:

Political correctness is nothing more than socialized, self-righteous cowardice; it only serves to limit creative thinking and activity. People need to get over themselves. Just because you’re offended by something doesn’t mean the author intended to demean you. The Bill of Rights does not mandate that we have to cater to fragile personalities. If this is what the IEEE has become, perhaps I should be spending my dues money on better things, like trying to make ends meet in this economy.

Welcome to America: land of the emotionally insecure, home of the politically correct.

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