The Sexism of CSS

Elaina Natario on the perceived femininity of CSS and the sexism that haunts our industry:

There are surely plenty of people of marginalized gender experience in all programming spaces, but they don’t have as much opportunity to surface new ideas. CSS is only allowed some slight breathing room simply because other programmers don’t even consider it to be part of web development. The distinction is even clearer when you consider the differences between front-end and backend salaries. CSS having any validity in the field while maintaining its feminine image is a threat to the notion that programming is a masculine exercise.

So when it comes down to the root of the problem, perhaps it isn’t CSS itself but our unwillingness to examine our sexist ideas of what is worthy in web development.

I had this feeling deep in my bones in one gig I worked on. CSS was seen as a “weak” language by everyone in the company—and therefore a language designed for women. Somehow I wasn’t seen as a real developer because of my interest in HTML and CSS above all else. It was pretty weird!

This is why I feel uncomfortable about the “CSS is awesome” meme because I also see the sexism in that statement, too. But it’s doubly annoying because CSS is genuinely awesome so the snark doesn’t really make much sense. Likewise, the whole “wow how do I center something in CSS? Heheheh this is not a real language unless it’s compiled” stuff, that’s the same kind of thing really. It’s the boring, sexist bullshit only in a different form.

I wonder if this happened in the old typesetting days, if there were different kinds of machines that were seen as more authentic, more “masculine” somehow. I’m sure there was some dude who bragged about how, simply because he used a linotype machine, that he was hot shit compared to some other poor chap because it was more complicated and required a tough dude wheel to pull the lever to do the thing.