In today’s episode of People are Pissed at Uber, the internet is full of sound and fury because Uber’s CEO went into a company lactation room to meditate.
I had to Google “lactation room” to learn what that was, because I wanted to be properly pissed about it too. It’s basically a safe space where mothers can breastfeed. Oh, okay. Doesn’t Uber get some credit for installing a lactation room in the first place? None of my employers ever provided workplace lactation rooms.
It seems only months ago that people were complaining about Uber not hiring enough women. Now the company has shored up its staff, it’s got employees capable of lactation, it’s gone so far as to provide those employees with lactation rooms — and yet the internet is still unhappy.
At this point we’re pretty much scraping the bottom of the barrel for allegations of moral failing. Here are people freaking out because an Uber exec acquired the medical records of a customer who was assaulted by a driver (The file was initially obtained by the company’s law firm). In other news, here is a long list of all the companies that buy patient medical records, and here are the data brokers who match, identify, and resell those records. But we’ll save that ruckus for another day.
Humans are herd animals, and right now the herd is stampeding at Uber. The directed outrage began earlier this year, when a former employee aired a public chronicle of all the ways the company had wronged her. Other tales of sexism soon followed, culminating in an Atlantic treatise asking: “Why is Silicon Valley so Awful to Women?”
Some might call that a loaded question. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and assume that none of the characters involved in these stories ever had to wait tables in college or volunteer as candy stripers to fill high school graduation requirements. The service industry, the health care industry – basically any industry that spends a lot of time interacting with humans – sees far more sexism than Silicon Valley.
Silicon Valley is awful to women for the same reason Sweden is the rape capital of the world. Sweden is in fact doing fine; in 2005 the country broadened its definition of rape to include any act where the defendant cannot prove consent, including mental violence.
If you keep lowering the bar for what constitutes unacceptable behavior, then there’s going to be more and more unacceptable behavior. You can similarly ask why college campuses suffer so much hate speech, or why Sarah Silverman encounters so many Nazi symbols.
No matter how woke the tech industry gets, the babbling heads of the fourth estate will always be there to assert their moral superiority. I suspect it stems from repressed feelings of aggression. In earlier years we’d simply throw chairs and punches at each other, but it was an uneven match and the weak ones complained. So now we’ve turned to morally whaling on the unwoke.
Have we gotten so caught up in complaining that we forget how much progress we’ve made? Maybe there’s something nice to be said for the four months’ paid maternity leave offered by Uber and most other tech companies. Maybe Uber deserves some credit for accommodating the needs of a lactating workforce. Maybe we should applaud the work-life balance that must entail. Whatever happened to gratitude?
See, now I’m doing the exact same thing. I’m engaging in my own moral posturing by pointing out how ungrateful the critics are. Life was easier when we could simply punch the smug.