As a former Silicon Valley Resident, Stanford student, and Humanities Major, who spent much of her college career being made to feel illiterate for my inability to read code (shout out to the days when the human race had more respect for a well-written sentence #RIP), I have many a deep-seated feeling about the Silicon Valley. Therefore, when I heard that HBO was going to feature said Former Home of Mine feat. T.J. Miller & the oh-so-adorbs Thomas Middleditch, I was super duper psyched! Duh. You would be too (lots of my Stanford friends were). I was so excited that I didn’t even consider Game of Thrones to be Sunday’s main event. Because Silicon Valley was going to speak to me. I was going to see so many things I had experienced firsthand, represented on television! And I did see those things: the stereotypical “brogrammers” making pretentiously complex lattes at futuristic espresso machines? Real. The obsession with TED talks? Super read. The 26 year olds living in mansions without bosses or respect for authority? The most real. The ambiguous references to “Steve” (“Wozniak or Jobs?”) as ultimate all time hero-genius? Real and funny.
But there was something else – something very prevalent and very problematic about the REAL Silicon Valley – that I had been hoping the show would circumvent, or, at the very least, pay lip service to: Silicon Valley’s female problem. As in, Dear Mike Judge, CAN I GET SOME FEMALE CAST MEMBERS UP IN THIS INCUBATOR?
No. I cannot get some. I can get one, singular. With three lines and a job assisting an older, white man.
“But that’s just art imitating life!” say the skeptics, perhaps referencing the real life rampant sexism in the Silicon Valley. “There aren’t many women working in the Silicon Valley at all!” This is true. There are not. It’s disgusting and pretty sad. But there are more than zero. And, in this case, Art Imitating Life would suggest that the very least Art could do is subscribe to Real Life’s most basic, paltry step toward progress: its affirmative action policy. Life – if Life is Facebook or Google or Hooli or [insert stupid portmanteau-turned-startup-name here] – would require the HR department to make an effort – no matter how minor – to include women. So, Art – if Art is Mike Judge or Dave Altschuler or Dave Krinsky or whatever HBO executive brought this pilot in – should in turn do us the favor of at least ONE Female Engineer Main Character. She could even be the token female engineer main character! She could even refer to herself as that! Perhaps address this colossal and very problematic issue!
I’m not saying I need a 50/50 gender ratio here. That’s neither realistic nor necessary. But I am saying that the show would probably be a lot better and funnier if there was a hilarious, hardworking lady-coder living amongst the bros in the Ramen Den and occasionally providing some refreshingly witty womanly perspective.
And that would be better than nothing. And nothing is what keeps sexism alive and well, in TV writers’ rooms and Silicon Valley startup offices alike!
*The Silicon Valley pilot is available on YouTube if you’d like to watch it but I’m not even going to link to it here because this post was written in a fury of felt and upset feelings.*