Code for “I don’t believe you”

Happy Valentines Day! I love the stuffed Han Solo that my husband gave me, and I also love that he celebrates Groundhog Day instead (he got a new hoodie and a 4×4 Rubik’s Cube). We’re weird, but it works.

And now for something that I don’t love. A few weeks ago I posted the following on Facebook:

“Just spent fifteen minutes poring over some pretty straightforward code just to realize that I forgot to put a backslash at the end of a redirect URL. This getting old thing is not for sissies.”

I expected a few chuckles from friends who, like, me, find that aging comes with some forgetfulness. I thought I might get a little bit of validation, perhaps a few comments along the lines of “OMG, forget a semicolon and you’re toast” or “Been there.” What I didn’t expect was comments from men who assumed they knew more than I did about the code:

“15 minutes seems short to diagnose that kind of mistake. Is this in JS?” (PHP, actually. I suck at JavaScript. As I said, straightforward code.)

“Breaking a redirect (or anything) in PHP is allowed because there are like 100 built-in methods for any action.” (True, and I chose the one that made the most sense in the situation. But you have to get the syntax right for each method.)

“Pretty sure you meant forward slash.” (No, I’m pretty sure I meant backslash. Do you somehow have access to my files and therefore think you’re better informed than I am?)

I’ll explain, not that I think it’s necessary: yes, I can code. A little. It’s not the #1 thing that I spend my time on, because it’s not what I enjoy most and it’s frustrating in much the same way that copy editing is frustrating. But I co-own a small test prep business, and we wanted a fun and engaging web page with the ability to accept payment for our classes, and though my business partner is fully competent changing pieces of a page in HTML, I’m the one who has experience with page design and learned ASP when it was trendy (and then switched to PHP when the trend was over). Am I a full-service web developer? Nope. Am I capable of building a page? Yep.

So to my mansplaining dude friends (and I have plenty of friends, male and female, who do this for a living, and only a few of them thought it was their job to correct me): Dudes. It’s coding. If it’s written correctly, the code runs and you get the result you want. If it’s written incorrectly, the code breaks. I’m pretty sure that I didn’t ask any of you for help, and I’m even more sure that it would take you far longer to find the mistake in my code than it took me.

To the rest of you: what are some gender things you really, really don’t love?



On prolonged sabbatical from her career in arts administration, Libby is a seamstress, editor, entrepreneur, and community volunteer. She has a husband and three children.

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5 Responses

  1. Seffie says:

    I hate that men die – “on average” – sooner than women.

  2. SisterStacey says:

    On a trip to the grocery store looking for a certain food for her daughter, who has tons of allergies, my friend and I had food allergies mansplained to us by the “helpful” clerk we’d asked for help finding a certain product. I literally wanted to scream “She knows what she’s talking about! She’s been dealing with this for seven years!”
    Luckily, I haven’t had any men try to explain my job to me, but I work at a great place.

  3. Em says:

    I hate that, as a female professor, I’m treated differently from my male colleagues. I particularly hate it when students think I’m supposed to be nurturing and maternal — i.e. be a softie about grades, or extensions, or violating my policies. I’m not your mother, and I do not care if you fail my class. I’m happy to help students succeed if they want to try and if they seek help, but a student whose effort earns a D or an F deserves that D or F and I’m not going to feel sad or lose sleep over it. A male professor who takes a hard line is “strict” whereas I’d be classed as a b!tch.

  4. Comment says:

    Please, let’s give the men who commented on your post the benefit of the doubt. I think they were trying to make a substantive comment to engage with you on a level of mutual understanding of code. I don’t think they were trying to mansplain, they just didn’t realize all you wanted was “been there.” They certainly were not saying “I don’t believe you”!

  5. PP67 says:

    My brother made a lamp for me and shipped it to me. In the shipping a part of the lamp broke off. I called him and told him I got the lamp but it will need to be repaired first before I can try it out. Then he asked if my husband was handy and could fix it, or if my father-in-law could fix it. I said, “Or, I could fix it!”. He paused and didn’t know what to say for a few seconds. It never even crossed his mind that I could do something like that. Surely I need a man to glue something back together, because I’m just too helpless! But I expect this from him. He is so sexist and racist that most of the time I just hate talking to him.

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