As Kyle points out in “Part 2 Blog,” the intimate relationships from The Bug are more mechanical than loving. His connections about dehumanization are clear, but how do these connections compare in the workplace? There appears to be a divide between the sexes; the women are more expressive and collaborative, while the men keep their guards up, distancing themselves. Whether this is a point of technology or just a difference in personality is harder to distinguish.
Roberta’s relationship with Mara, her coworker, feels different than the relationships that Ethan has with his male coworkers. Roberta’s been irritated with Mara before, (“Shit, Mara. You’re a tester!”, 14), but they still share a much more personable relationship. When Mara brings the code crashing down again, she remembers that it’s a personal point for Roberta, and gives her the chance to tell Ethan (68). They aren’t best friends, but Mara keeps Roberta’s life on her radar, and Roberta grants Mara allowances for her mistakes. Roberta and Mara have a warmer friendship than the programmers.
Either as a quirk or a statement, Ethan’s friendships with his coworkers are shallow or nonexistent. The most obvious example is his lunch partner, Bill Steghman. While they go to lunch together almost every day, they rarely communicate, even to the point that when “Something… revealed itself to Ethan in the pause before Steghman’s reply” he’s unable to process it before lunch ended (143). Ethan’s also resentful of his other coworkers, given their hostility to the “corporate coder” who was more on schedule than they were (38). This set up is decidedly more us vs. them then detachment, but speaks to the lack of collaboration between the men.
Collaboration is what the relationships between men and women come down to. While the women, who are all testers, work together to correct codes, the male programmers are quicker to point fingers and work alone. While it would be easy to blame the more integrated technology in the programmers lives than the testers (technical vs. layman’s knowledge), Ullman isn’t leaving it at that. She mentions during a lunch between Ethan and Steghman, “So the two men—who if they’d been women, would have discussed… relieved one another…supported and sustained… in short, talk- no, the two men could do nothing of the sort” (108). Ullman leaves it clear that women and men react differently with each other, and while both genders lose the qualities that Kyle discusses, men seem to more than women.