I listened to a lecture awhile back that got my dander up, leaving me disappointed with myself (for letting my dander get up) and also with the lecturer. The topic of the lecture was 21st Century Pedagogies, and the lecturer was discussing a handbook published that year for which she was one of the authors. I don’t remember the title of the chapter under discussion, or really even the topic, but I do remember the word which shut me down. Brogrammer.
My son graduated a couple of years ago with a computer science degree. He is pretty introverted, a red-head, and seemed to experienced all of the stereo-typical nerd challenges during his middle school and high school career. It is hard for him to ‘people’. He loves to code. To him, coding makes sense, and people are frighteningly difficult to decipher. He is my kid, and I love him.
He is also white, and male, and received his HS education at a private Christian school. Although I see his private Christian school education as fraught with disappointments and challenges I don’t feel he would have to have faced at a public school, the readings we are experienced make it clear that such an education does afford privilege. Being white and being a male afford him privilege, as well. But in my mama heart, I feel like his being unable to crack the people code, particularly in a private Christian school in which being moneyed and cool was of such social importance, created challenges that offset those privileges. In my scholar brain, however, the readings we have experienced lead me to conclude that is not at all the case. I know he is privileged, and more importantly, he is aware that he is privileged.
The lecturer described ‘brogrammers’ as white male computer programmers negligent of the work of the women and people of color who came before them, and with whom they currently work. I’m sure, if I read the chapter, I will be able to understand the author’s justification for creating this category. Possibly, if I read the chapter, I might even agree with the author’s justification for creating this category. But the author’s use of the word ‘brogrammer’ eliminated for me the possibility of discourse and its ensuing discoveries. As we study the centrality of language in constructing understanding, and, if I understand Foucault at all correctly, are aware of the questionable value of creating categories at all, the use of the term ‘brogrammer’ is irresponsible and unproductive, a disappointing contribution to an important conversation. I felt the author has chosen intentionally to not only create a category holding characteristics I know to be inaccurate but to name that category using a term that colloquially, at least, carries negative and demeaning connotation.
My son is aware of and values the foundations upon which his field is built. He knows the pioneers and current experts include women and people of color. In his mind they are not, however, women and people of color. They are brilliant people whose minds helped discover and develop a field with which he is fascinated and in which he is grateful to have a part. He doesn’t see categories. He just sees people.
He also sees, as he looks around him at work very few women. He notices that, and thinks it should not be the case. He doesn’t know how to fix it, and it baffles him that it has happened. It is an important conversation, and those of us populating a generation which has helped perpetuate it disadvantage the future when we front-load conversations with negatively impactful terminologies. It seems like we keep getting past doing so, but, I don’t know, want to sell books or get clicks so then revert to a lower level of communication. I’m not buying the book.