One joke, even an off-color one, isn’t the end of the world. It’s easy to look at one joke in isolation and think it’s no big deal. In some cases that will be true. In some cases it will not. This time, definitely not. It was more than just a joke.
There is always an element of truth in comedy. That’s what makes a joke funny: we see our world or ourselves reflected in the joke. When someone tells a joke and you don’t think it’s funny it’s a sure bet you have a different world view. Their “truth” is not yours. And therein lies the problem.
When I was young my (now deceased) father used to tell jokes about African Americans. Of course, the term African American didn’t exist back then. Other, unflattering terms were in regular use. As a child I thought these jokes were funny. Why wouldn’t I? They were being told by my father and young boys look up to their fathers, even when they are deeply flawed individuals. As an adult I now recognize my father as the racist he was. As an adult I know he was wrong. Very, very wrong. His “truth” isn’t my truth and it never will be.
The sexist culture in technology today is just as wrong and just as bad. A sexist joke cannot be looked at in isolation. In our profession sexist jokes are just the tip of the iceberg. We have a very real problem in this industry. When a male makes a sexist joke he is tacitly admitting that his “truth” holds women in very low esteem, defined by their sexual organs and not by their abilities and accomplishments. He is wrong. Very, very wrong. And he needs to be corrected.
Children lack the necessary experience to fully understand the world. They can be forgiven for thinking offensive jokes are funny. As adults it is our responsibility to teach children why they are wrong and help them become part of a better world.
Professional technology workers are not children. They should know better. When they don’t it’s our responsibility to teach them. Even if that lesson hurts. That’s just part of growing up.
I’m working on the next presentation for the university class I’m rewriting. This is the raw audio I’ll be using. It is an overview of the topics we cover in week 1: Software Quality and Testing Fundamentals.
The course overview video for one of the university courses I teach.
You ever watch the Super Bowl? You know all those “no team has ever…” statistics? Things like “No team that fumbled on the first drive has ever won the Super Bowl!” If you listen to those statistics you quickly find that neither team can possibly win. Both teams always fall into at least one “has never won” category. Yet every year, without fail, one of the teams wins despite the impossible odds.
Some days this is what computer programming is like. No matter what you do and what “best practices” you implement, there’s always some other rule you’ve violated or some potential pitfall you’ve exposed. One programmer’s Single Responsibility Principal is another programmer’s Tell Don’t Ask violation. And that’s assuming we even agree that the code actually implements those principles. Which is rarely the case.
At then end of the day you just have to forge ahead and ship the code. Study current and past theory as much as you can, learn from your experiences and those of your teammates, and make a judgement call. Someone is bound to dislike what you did. Occasionally they may even be right. Learn from it and move on. You’ll have another chance tomorrow.