“Defending the Brogrammer”
by Isa Hopkins, editor-at-large
The nationwide push for young people to pursue careers in the STEM fields — Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math — is not like its sixties, Space Race-version. Back then, it was all about white guys; nowadays, the emphasis is on encouraging women and people of color, particularly blacks and Hispanics, who are sorely underrepresented in the field.
“And where does that leave us?!” demands Andy Jarvis, a bleach-blonde twenty-six-year-old, over pints of artisanal beer at a chic bar and trattoria in San Francisco’s trendy, techie SoMa (South of Market) district. Jarvis and his assembled friends — all white, all male, all under the age of twenty-eight, and all pulling down more than six figures annually — are angry.
“Where’s our affirmative action?” asks Daniel Melone, whose floppy brown hair and green eyes give him movie-star good looks, before ordering a round of whiskey shots for the table. One of his compatriots farts loudly, and Melone spritzes some Axe Body Spray to mask the odor. (“It’s the new pocket protector,” says Melone of the Axe, which he carries at all times.)
“Seriously,” adds Kevin Durand, the farter. “It’s some bullshit.”
Jarvis, Melone, Durand, and the half-dozen other programmers around me are not your typical, pocket-protector-wielding nerds. These young men were raised on Spike TV and Maxim magazine; they fell in love with the Internet not only for its potential in advancing human thought and connectivity but because of its potential for making quick cash (“And shitloads of it,” Jarvis affirms), as well as its many opportunities to pass judgment on women.
“Hotornot.com,” Durand says, when I ask which web site most inspired them to pursue computer science. There are nods around the table. “Also, Redtube,” says Mick Tellison, referring to the largest free Internet porn site. There are knowing laughs and high-fives, but they settle down quickly after Melone’s whiskey shots arrive and are downed without hesitation or instruction, in eerie unison.
“Look,” says Melone, “Internet porn is great when you’re, like, in high school or whatever — it really is — but I want this to be clear: we’re not some jerkoff losers who can’t get women. The best thing about Internet porn is that it taught me how to handle the pussy, you know?”
“Word, bro.” Tellison fist-bumps his friend.
“Hotties love a code jock,” explains Andy Jarvis. That is how this unique subspecies of computer scientist refers to itself: code jock, brogrammer, never “nerd.”
“Fuck the nerds!” declares Jack McDaniels, a redhead who dropped out of Stanford after he raised four and a half million dollars in venture capital for his new web venture, a social network distinguished by its scatalogical question-and-answer service. (“It’s gonna change the goddamn world,” McDaniels tells me, repeatedly, giving me beta access to log on and discover discussions on topics including how quickly one should expect to take a shit after a keg stand.)
“Nerds,” says Durand, patiently, “don’t understand what it is to be a badass. They want to, like, include chicks? And ugly chicks? And black chicks?”
There is an awkward pause at the table as several of the young men seem to contemplate challenging Durand’s racism, but nobody says anything, and he continues. “Look,” he tells me, elbows on the table. “We just get so much pushback. Like, all these fucking activists here in San Francisco — ugly chicks and poor people, you know — but they’re, like, lobbying the city because they’re jealous of our busses.” Tellison affects an effeminate voice, flapping his hands limp-wristedly as he speaks: “Those corporate busses are blocking my need for public transit! I have rights, too!”
“It’s like, move to Oakland, tranny,” McDaniels interjects. “Get the fuck out of my way before we run you over.”
“We are this goddamn economy, you know,” says Jarvis. “If people can’t afford it, well, that’s their own fault. They need to go read Ayn Rand and get a job.”
The waitress returns at that moment, another round of whiskey shots in tow. “Assholes,” she mutters under her breath; none of the brogrammers hear her, but her cold demeanor is enough to earn reproach.
“What an uppity bitch,” says Melone. “She’d be lucky to have my dick in her, with a face like that.”
“Hey!” McDaniels waves her back over. She is tall, slender, strikingly beautiful. “You know, you gotta work for your tips.”
Her expression is unchanged.
“Customers pay your salary, bitch,” says Durand.
“Thanks,” she answers, brusquely, then strides away behind the bar.
“No tip for that cunt,” says Jarvis. “Except maybe the tip of my penis. Anal!” Durand fist-bumps him.
“Fuck bitches,” says McDaniels. “She probably hasn’t had sex in months, and I was drowning in titties last night. Winning!” There is a another round of high-fives around the table.
“Anyway,” says Jarvis, standing and throwing down a hundred-dollar bill without even asking for the check (the rest of his clique follow suit), “so, yeah, there’s all these scholarships and shit for people who shouldn’t even become programmers because they’re so fucking lame. So we’re starting our own. The guy who ran PayPal gave us five million dollars. It’s a special venture capital fund for dudes under thirty. Apparently we can’t legally say it’s only for white dudes, but come on, I mean, who else are we gonna give it to — a Mexican?! Deuces!” Laughing uproariously, the guys file out, a chorus debating what they should do next — “rip Ruby a new asshole” seems to be the winner, and I can only pray that they are referring to the programming language Ruby on Rails.
The waitress come to take the pile of bills and clear the shot glasses. Her name, I learn, is Audrey, and this is not her only job.
“I adjunct at SF State, USF, and Berkeley,” she says; her specialty is medieval theater history, and her doctorate is from Yale. “I had to take this job because I need savings — two weeks ago my husband and I got an eviction notice. We found a place in Oakland, but the deposit is kinda high, and we won’t be covered under the city health insurance plan over there… he’s a social worker, works with severely disabled kids. Neither of us makes the big bucks.”
What prompted the eviction notice, I wonder, and Audrey tells me the rumor is that her pre-war building is being converted from housing into corporate headquarters for a new web startup. “Something about a social network about poop? I mean, that can’t be right, but that’s what I heard,” she says, wiping down the table before being called over to another group, a rowdy crowd of young Asian-American men with polo shirts and gelled hair crowing about “ownage.”
Brogrammers: changing the goddamn world, indeed.