Diversity isn’t important…and neither are standards or accessibility

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Dori Smith pointed to a Kottke post where he took on several conferences and their lack of diversity. I find this topic lately to be exhausting, when one considers we’ve been laboring on this issue for several years. I’d be more sanguine about the lack of women speakers at conferences if most people would at least agree that a more diverse conference, field, profession is a better one. But I don’t see it: I see white guys looking around going, “Hey, I dun see no problem”.

People like Eric Meyer, who wrote today:

In my personal view, diversity is not of itself important, and I don’t feel that I have anything to address next time around. What’s important is technical expertise, speaking skills, professional stature, brand appropriateness, and marketability. That’s it. That’s always been the alpha and omega of my thinking, and it will continue to be so the next time, and time after that, and the time after that.

You know, Eric has a point: why should we worry about diversity in conferences? Or within technology, as a matter of fact?

After all, the field is gradually heading to being completely male and a mix of asian and white, and that should be good enough, right? After all: people make choices not to be techs.

Of course, the field is designed by white men, and the value system is based on white male values, and the school curriculum for computer science was created by white males, and the guys are really good about giving each other kudos and recommending each other for jobs — not to mention also defining the tests given to job candidates, determining who gets the grants, the awards, the accolades.

I mean, just because women have to work twice as hard for half the recognition, what makes us think that we’re being deprived? After all, it’s all a matter of choice.

Come to that, why do we have to screw around with standards? I mean, Internet Explorer dominates in the browser market–so let’s just code and design for IE, and tell the W3C and that irritating buzzy group the WaSP that thanks, but no thanks, we don’t need to have a ‘better’ way of doing things: all we need is a market-driven way of doing things.

Men drive the tech market. IE drives the browser market. Ipso facto: we don’t need women but we do need IE.

But let’s now stop there: I don’t about anyone else who works with JavaScript and Ajax and stuff, but I’m really tired of blind people being on the internet. I mean, who do they think they are, wanting equal access to all the web pages and applications? Don’t they know that because we have to worry about screen readers and magnifiers, we can’t create the best web pages and applications?

This counts for all of you damn cripples, too. So what if you’re paralyzed and you have to use a keyboard, and can’t use a mouse? Whiner babies: why don’t you grab a tin can, fill it full of pencils, and plant your butt on the corner and beg for a living–let the rest of us do the web the way we want to–the best way. And isn’t that what matters? What the market determines is the best?

That’s what Eric says about the A List Apart conference:

…remember that An Event Apart is a web development best practices conference. Our brand promises to bring you the biggest names in the field of standards-oriented design and closely related fields, and to have those people talk about what they see next, to push the envelope just a little further out, to show the audience old things in new ways, and so on. Therefore, it relies on populating the stage with widely known and respected people, on having speakers who are instantly recognizable as relevant to what the attendees do and what they want to learn.

See? It’s all about brands, it’s all about the market.

Oh, let’s not bring in that old chestnut about women making up over half the users on the web, and our combined buying power and all that tedious maundering. I mean, really, why should Eric let something like not having half his client base represented stand in the way of a real kick ass conference on web design. Right? Right?

What’s important is technical expertise, speaking skills, professional stature, brand appropriateness, and marketability. That’s it.

No, what really matters is marketability. Maybe I’ve been weblogging too long, but it seems to me that a lot of people are doing a lot of crap in the name of ‘marketability’. If you want to be self-serving jerks, that’s fine with me, but at least be honest about it: don’t wrap it in ‘marketability’ and think it noble.

Where does it end, Eric? Where does one draw the line, and say that we’ll let the market determine what’s important to this point, but not to that? If we just relax and not ‘worry’ about diversity at conferences, it makes it so much easier…but why stop there?

The market also tells us that the blind don’t matter, the crippled don’t matter, the poor certainly don’t matter, the gay don’t matter, the blacks don’t matter, the Hispanics don’t matter, the Chinese matter (but only when they’re working, not when they’re voting)–hell, about the only ones that do matter, Eric, are people like you. And from the comments attached to your post that’s about who you’ll get at your conference.

Congratulations! I can see your conference is going to be exactly what you want: a great marketing success.

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