Sometimes you should give people the benefit of the doubt when they're accused of something bad. But when they have a history of doing that bad thing—or in Paul Graham's case, blogging it over the span of a decade—no dice. If you search PG's website for "women," it speaks for itself:

Graham opining on femininity has all the nuance and insight of a subreddit. There's this (all emphasis added):

Ok, so we get slower growth. Is that so bad? Well, one reason it's bad in practice is that other countries might not agree to slow down with us. If you're content to develop new technologies at a slower rate than the rest of the world, what happens is that you don't invent anything at all. Anything you might discover has already been invented elsewhere. And the only thing you can offer in return is raw materials and cheap labor. Once you sink that low, other countries can do whatever they like with you: install puppet governments, siphon off your best workers, use your women as prostitutes, dump their toxic waste on your territory— all the things we do to poor countries now. The only defense is to isolate yourself, as communist countries did in the twentieth century. But the problem then is, you have to become a police state to enforce it.

And this:

I also think girls are less likely to become nerds than boys of equal intelligence, possibly because they're more sensitive to social pressures. In my school, at least, girls made more of an effort to conform than boys.

And this:

This was the most powerful force of all. This was what made everyone want computers. Nerds got computers because they liked them. Then gamers got them to play games on. But it was connecting to other people that got everyone else: that's what made even grandmas and 14 year old girls want computers.

Even GRANDMAS and 14-year-old girls!? Wow.

Why is the real world more hospitable to nerds? It might seem that the answer is simply that it's populated by adults, who are too mature to pick on one another. But I don't think this is true. Adults in prison certainly pick on one another. And so, apparently, do society wives; in some parts of Manhattan, life for women sounds like a continuation of high school, with all the same petty intrigues.


One argument says that this would be impossible, that the smart kids are unpopular because the other kids envy them for being smart, and nothing they could do could make them popular. I wish. If the other kids in junior high school envied me, they did a great job of concealing it. And in any case, if being smart were really an enviable quality, the girls would have broken ranks. The guys that guys envy, girls like.


On closer examination I see a couple things on the list that are surprising in the light of history. For example, physical attractiveness wouldn't have been there 100 years ago (though it might have been 2400 years ago). It has always mattered for women, but in the late twentieth century it seems to have started to matter for men as well. I'm not sure why—probably some combination of the increasing power of women, the increasing influence of actors as models, and the fact that so many people work in offices now: you can't show off by wearing clothes too fancy to wear in a factory, so you have to show off with your body instead.

The history of womankind, according to Paul Graham.

I didn't realize it till I was writing this, but that may help explain why there are so few female startup founders. I read on the Internet (so it must be true) that only 1.7% of VC-backed startups are founded by women. The percentage of female hackers is small, but not that small. So why the discrepancy? When you realize that successful startups tend to have multiple founders who were already friends, a possible explanation emerges. People's best friends are likely to be of the same sex, and if one group is a minority in some population, pairs of them will be a minority squared.


And as technology becomes increasingly important in the economy, nerd culture is rising with it. Nerds are already a lot cooler than they were when I was a kid. When I was in college in the mid-1980s, "nerd" was still an insult. People who majored in computer science generally tried to conceal it. Now women ask me where they can meet nerds. (The answer that springs to mind is "Usenix," but that would be like drinking from a firehose.)

And so on. Search the site for yourself. Even the things that aren't offensive show a general inaptitude, a lack of any empathy or understanding. Of course Paul Graham doesn't think what he said was bad, because he's so far down an inscrutable abyss of ignorance. He talks about women with broad, indifferent strokes. Paul Graham has a published history of speaking like someone who has never had a meaningful conversation with a woman in his life—to say nothing of supporting them in the workplace. And this is exactly why, when he says "God knows what you would do to get 13 year old girls interested in computers," it's worth being upset over. You want context? You just scrolled through a bunch of context.