"Men invented the Internet," declared the opening sentence of a New York Times article on Sunday, the beginning of a story on Ellen Pao and her lawsuit against former employers Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the venture capital firm she's accusing of sexual discrimination.
The line itself -- part of a paragraph explaining the widespread conception, possibly inaccurate, of Silicon Valley as a world dominated by men with "Mad Men"-esque attitudes and values -- was controversial, sparking responses and accusations that had nothing to do with Pao's case.
Here's the offending paragraph:
Men invented the Internet. And not just any men. Men with pocket protectors. Men who idolized Mr. Spock and cried when Steve Jobs died. Nerds. Geeks. Give them their due. Without men, we would never know what our friends were doing five minutes ago.
For starters, points out SF Weekly's Dan Mitchell, the Internet was not invented by any one person any more than it was crafted solely by men: "Radia Perlman, who invented one of the basic network protocols on which the Internet operates, is called "The Mother of the Internet," he reports.
And the "nerds" and "geeks" of NYT reporter David Streitfield's opening aren't even the current residents of Silicon Valley, Mitchell advises: "the culture is dominated at least as much by mercenary finance sharks -- frat-boy types, not nerds -- as well as marketing droids of both sexes."
But it's with those folks that Pao has her issue. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is one of the few firms to promote women, and Pao says her bosses, partners and co-workers lashed out at her professionally after she spurned sexual advances.
The firm is notable for providing seed money to "Netscape, Genentech, Amazon and a little start-up called Google," the Times reported.
So who runs Silicon Valley? Whoever they are, they best be on better behavior, or else they, too, may be in court accused of sexism.