Asian American Women at the Forefront in the Fight to End Silicon Valley’s Culture of Sexual Harassment

Ellen Pao (Photo credit: David Paul Morris / Bloomberg)

In a new tell-all book (Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change) — which has been excerpted in The Cut — former Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers junior partner Ellen Pao reveals the culture of sexual harassment that led to her high-profile gender discrimination lawsuit against the powerful venture capital firm.  In 2012, Pao filed a major lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins alleging a culture of gender discrimination, and was terminated from the company while her case was ongoing. Despite a valiant legal battle which included the company’s defense engaging in shameless victim blaming and other forms of character assassination, Pao ultimately lost her lawsuit against the firm. Pao went on to serve for two years as CEO of Reddit (where she notably instituted policies curtailing the posting of revenge porn and eliminating some of the site’s most extremist hate-motivated subreddits), before joining Kapor Capital where she currently works.

Pao’s case against Kleiner Perkins was easily one of the most high-profile and influential gender discrimination lawsuits to be filed against a Silicon Valley firm. Although she didn’t win her battle against a large company with access to vast legal resources, Pao’s courageous lawsuit helped to pull back the veil of Silicon Valley’s culture of sexual and gender harassment.

Pao’s case paved the way for many other women — many of them Asian American women — to reveal their own experiences of gender discrimination in tech; and collectively, the courage of these women in speaking out against a culture of sexual harassment in Silicon Valley is having an impact.

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Want real diversity in superhero comics? Meet Grace Choi.

Michael B. Jordan (left) and The Human Torch (right).
Michael B. Jordan (left) and The Human Torch (right).

Yesterday, I wrote about the news that Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale StationChronicle) would be adopting the mantle of The Human Torch. I talked about my enthusiasm for integrating diverse story-telling into comics, and my reservations that trans-racial casting in the absence of varied and complex writing is literally skin-deep diversity.

On the other side of the argument, some have celebrated Jordan’s casting, arguing that cross-racial casting of major superhero properties is the path of least resistance towards the goal of diverse superheroes. They argue that the road towards introducing superheroes of colour to the major publishing houses — DC and Marvel — is rife with red tape obstacles; the solution, therefore, is to encourage the seamless and casual transracialization of existing characters.

I disagree.

If the purpose of diversifying comics is to introduce minority fans to relatable superheroes, then while seeing an empowered brown body shoot lasers from her eyes is fun, seeing an empowered brown body shoot lasers from her eyes and who is also brown when she takes her cape off is far more relatable. Cross-racial casting doesn’t dismantle the pretenses of an industry that  has since time immemorial treated race like window-dressing while it is also viewed as an unseemly subject best left out of comics.  When comic writers and publishing houses are encouraged in the fantasy that writing a superhero is race-neutral until an artist puts blue pencil to paper (or a casting director taps a talented non-White actor to play the part) it perpetuates a system that has historically ignored, disrespected, and devalued Blackness and race in general.

If we want to inject diversity into comics, the solution isn’t to offer the appearance of race while ignoring its impact on the people behind the mask. The solution is to tackle race head-on.

Want an example? Meet Grace Choi.

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