Men are always hypocrites when they have to confront a woman accusing them of discriminating against her when it comes to wages, jobs, or management positions in the workplace.
They admit that the women are right, that things need to change, and then they add: “But things have always been like that, we can’t change if the others don’t change as well.” This is why sudden, unexpected forms of protest are popping up, such as the women who have mobilized to denounce discrimination even in the “belly of the beast,” platform capitalism, at Google, Amazon, Microsoft or Apple. When the situation has reached such a point, the sexist reactions and the replies aiming to silence those speaking out are not long in coming.
Just over a year ago, a misogynist document entitled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” was being circulated inside Google, effectively arguing against the presence of women at the company founded by Sergey Brin and Larry Page, all in the name of criticizing the oppressive climate of political correctness in Silicon Valley. The search engine company could not sweep this under the rug and ended up firing the author of this document, pledging that it would “rectify” the situation. A year has passed since then, but everything has remained the same.
Google’s women employees, however, have begun to flood the Internet with tweets and statements taking a stand against the discrimination and sexual harassment they encounter during their long working days (as at Google it’s common to work even 11 or 12 hours a day).
And now, Google’s leadership has renewed its commitment to take serious steps to address the anger and frustration of the women that have been discriminated against and harassed, and has expressed support for their mobilization. Everyone knows that platform capitalism is a male fiefdom, and it is very hard to find men taking a public stand supporting the women fighting against sexual harassment and discrimination at work.
There are, in any case, certain elements pertaining to the work regime inside and outside platform capitalism that need to be mentioned.
The process of employee management follows the lines of color, gender, and education. In other words, the hierarchies and the power structures of businesses that manage labor take on different hues according to sexual and racial differences, just like they do as a function of educational attainment (i.e. which college, campus, or university someone has graduated from). In the US, this translates to differences in salary, access to corporate benefits, and health coverage; in Europe, it leads to extreme precariousness for both migrants and women in Europe.
One thing is clear: sexual discrimination has a particular unique character that should never be overlooked, and the events of these past few months are proof of this. Class struggle is more and more speaking the gender-conscious language of difference.
It can be argued that the entirety of the Non Una Di Meno experience is a showcase of this political potency, linking the mechanisms of production and reproduction within and against platform capitalism.
The level of mobilization by women inside Google has gone far beyond the confines of Mountain View and Silicon Valley. Now, there are groups of European and Asian women who are not afraid to speak out and forcefully draw attention to the problem. We should also remember that it was also a woman who published a letter against Google’s participation in Maven, the Pentagon’s scientific research program. The search engine company should have stayed away from this source of financing, even though it was receiving millions over millions of dollars in a project connected to artificial intelligence, a sector where Google is a major player. In the end, the letter, widely shared in recent months, had an effect after all: Google has pushed pause and will reflect on the matter.
So, is everything alright now? According to investigative journalists and analysts of the digital labor market, the social peace that was concluded in the 1990s between workers and businesses is showing cracks in Silicon Valley.
For decades, the terms of this pact were clear. Work hard, make the business grow, and the company will guarantee you stock options so you can become millionaires: high salaries, excellent health and pension plans, as well as a tolerant internal climate that encourages individual initiative. A good example of the latter is Google’s unwritten rule according to which 20 percent of the working time of individual employees can be dedicated to pursuing a personal project using the company’s resources and infrastructure. All these elements have led to a low rate of conflict within the enterprises that make up platform capitalism. But now, that idyllic climate seems to be coming to an end.
Militant trade union groups have been organized, and they are demanding salary increases and the end of the balkanization of the internal labor market between precarious workers and “perms” (the aristocracy of digital labor), between women and men, and between immigrants and natives. And they are supporting the cause of women. For once, we have good news coming from the rarefied strata of contemporary capitalism.
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