The world lost a genius when Aaron Swartz committed suicide. It also lost a sensitive soul willing to turn an eye towards the uglier side of the industry he loved.
Here, excerpts of a 2007 interview in which Swartz discusses misogyny in technology. He was only 21 at the time:
Philipp Lenssen: Can you give some examples of misogyny or racism?
Aaron Swartz: If you talk to any woman in the tech community, it won’t be long before they start telling you stories about disgusting, sexist things guys have said to them. It freaks them out; and rightly so. As a result, the only women you see in tech are those who are willing to put up with all the abuse.
I really noticed this when I was at foo camp once, Tim O’Reilly’s exclusive gathering for the elite of the tech community. The executive guys there, when they thought nobody else was around, talked about how they always held important business meetings at strip clubs and the deficiencies of programmers from various countries.
Meanwhile, foo camp itself had a session on discrimination in which it was explained to us that the real problem was not racism or sexism, but simply the fact that people like to hang out with others who are like themselves.
The denial about this in the tech community is so great that sometimes I despair of it ever getting fixed. And I should be clear, it’s not that there are just some bad people out there who are being prejudiced and offensive. Many of these people that I’m thinking of are some of my best friends in the community. It’s an institutional problem, not a personal one.
We’ll miss you, Aaron.