What’s the big deal?

Several times in the last several weeks, I’ve found myself involved in an internet dust-up on twitter about “women in tech”. This is the politically correct term. But what it’s really about is the rampant misogyny and sexism in the tech industry. The most recent kerfuffle involved geekli.st. I won’t go over the details. Start at this article and then the internets will give you all the information you can stand. The short of it is that there’s a video promoting the Geeklist brand that made some women uncomfortable. And when one spoke up, she was systematically dismissed, marginalized and threatened, rather than having her issues taken seriously.

Over the course of this internet argument, I had several well-meaning and curious guys reach out to me to try and understand what all the fuss was about. They seemed like good people, but they were missing something about what it means to be sexist. Many men who come into these arguments are troubled because while they might see that something is wrong, they can’t see a clear set of rules that determine when something is sexist and when it isn’t. They’re also a little (or more than a little) frustrated by the seeming “double standard”, because many of the issues that women complain about, seem to happen to men too in some cases.

So I’m going to take a shot at explaining. This is going to be really tough. I am by no means a scholar. I have no authority on this issue. I’m just a man who has learned enough to be concerned about the problem. I’m constantly examining myself in an effort to ensure that I’m not a part of the problem. And if at all possible, if other men can start to examine themselves and their part in this, all the better. For convenience, I’m gonna speak directly to these men who asked me to write about it. All of this comes from my perspective. Not everyone will agree with my assessment, including some women. This won’t be perfect, but I’ll do my best.

Why is this a big deal?

I think this might be the place to start. Some men find it hard to understand why women can still be made to feel uncomfortable or offended. Aren’t we past that (No)? Haven’t we done a lot for gender equality (yes, but not enough)? Even if there are still some cases that are bad, aren’t we being overly sensitive (maybe, but mostly no)?

So in this incident, a woman was offended. Well that’s not exactly right, we can’t have a meltdown every time one person is offended. Several women were offended, lots of other people spoke out about the tastelessness of the video. But maybe that still doesn’t bother you. Would you believe that *lots* of women were likely offended by the video? And most of them will never speak up? Why wouldn’t they speak up? This may not seem right or intuitive. But one of the reasons is because this isn’t an isolated incident.

The reason this is a big deal is not because some women got offended. It’s a big deal because we are constantly doing things to offend women, every day. Every time you hear something about sexism, that’s just one instance of the pot boiling over. But women are constantly reminded by men that we objectify them, that we don’t fully respect them, that we exclude them. Every. Single. Day. If you had to deal with that kind of atmosphere, how often would you even bother speaking up?

Maybe you’re shaking your head right now. Maybe you think I’m blowing things out of proportion. That’s fine, just keep reading. And next time you get a chance, ask a few female friends of yours. Have a frank conversation with them. Don’t take my word for it.

How do you know this?

So what made me start to feel like maybe I understood what was going on here? It’s a hard topic. One of the things that occurred to me recently is if you try to speak on topics like this with any sense that you’ve got it “figured out”, you’re probably wrong. So what makes me feel confident enough to speak on it? In short, because I’m black. One day I started to realize that the things women go through, the history they’ve fought against, and the obstacles that are arrayed against them have lots of parallels to black people and American racism.

Stay with me guys. This section is about racism. Arguably an even harder topic. But I’m going to try to speak on it as it relates to sexism. If you can try to understand one, from my perspective, then you may get some insight into the other. Keep in mind that these are “parallels”. Any attempts to read into this as pitting racism against sexism are probably misguided.

So I talk to people about racism a lot. Despite the fact that it doesn’t seem to affect me much. I’ve been very fortunate in my life to be successful in the tech industry. As such I’m connected with lots of awesome people who are not black. Blacks are also woefully underrepresented in tech. But I try to keep abreast of current events, and I often share news items dealing with race. And occasionally I have similar conversations with white people about the race issue. Aren’t we past it (No)? Aren’t we being overly sensitive (maybe, but mostly no)? Don’t white people experience racism too?

That last one is interesting. One person said to me “I’ve experienced more reverse racism against me than I’ve seen racism against blacks”. I asked him what he meant by that and he clarified that he had been called “honky, cracker or terrorist”. I’m assuming this person was white. It was on twitter and I could only see his avatar. But I might be assuming too much. Particularly with “terrorist” thrown in there. I’ll get to that in a bit. But for our purposes, let’s assume this is a white person. I’m sure lots of white people have had this experience. Angry black people is a real thing, and I’m sure some insults have been hurled. Maybe even some punches thrown.

But I want to examine this definition of “racism”. Say you were called a honky. Definitely has racial tones. But how does a white person feel when they’re called this? You may feel hurt. You may feel offended. You may feel angry because it implies something about your morality or integrity. These are serious things and not to be overlooked. But do you think that is equal to what happens when I hear the word nigger?

Let me tell you what happens.

All of the above are certainly there. But there is more. I’m instantly aware that I’m in a dangerous situation. I’m confronted by a person who has used a word that means they do not respect my humanity. Historically, that word was given to us by people who had branded us lower than common animals. That word was used as people shackled us in chains, beat us, raped us, and killed us. And I’m not even talking about slavery.

These things continued to happen even after we had been “freed”. We were seen as second class citizens. We were given the lowest place in society, where the most successful of us could still be spat on by the poorest, most ignorant white person you can imagine. More so, this was completely acceptable behavior. No repercussions were forthcoming when white people took out any frustrations they deemed fit on us. What were we supposed to do? Speak out? Would you speak out if it meant that you could be killed and no one would bat an eye? No one of importance anyway. Your family, your community would be devastated. But they had no hope for redress. Their pleas would simply be ignored.

Fast forward a little. Didn’t we get past that? Didn’t we realize we were wrong and that we could do better? Didn’t we get together and say as a people that we wouldn’t allow this kind of injustice anymore? Yes we did. Most of us anyway. But what about the people who didn’t agree? The people who were not on board? Do you think they changed their behavior just because they could no longer operate with complete impunity? No.

I grew up with adults telling me that I had to be careful around white people. Not that I should hate them. But that I should be wary of them. Cops most especially. Because at any time, they could decide to take my freedom or even my life from me. Still I was fortunate. As a younger child, these things didn’t touch me. I was never spat on, never felt discriminated against. But as a young man, I had my share of incidents. In just one incident, I was stopped by police when walking through a neighborhood with a friend minding my business. I was told I “fit a description” of someone committing a crime. I was frisked, thoroughly. I was roughly handled in places I do not voluntarily allow men to handle me. But what was I to do? I was scared shitless. Then I was put into the back of the squad car. No miranda rights, no charges levied, not even being told whether I was being arrested. The police officers talked. Looked some things up on their computers. I don’t know how long, but I remember being terrified. Then they let us go. Just like that, I was allowed to continue my life.

And that’s my personal experience. There’s no “I know a guy”. Or “I’ve heard about such things in the news”. It happened to me. But that’s not even the worst of it. What about what we hear in the news? I can’t stop reading about Trayvon Martin. If you haven’t read about this, please do. Because it puts a fine point on my argument. Trayvon was also a young black kid walking through his neighborhood minding his business. A man who wasn’t even a cop came up to him, accused him of “being suspicious”, started harassing him verbally and physically. When Trayvon dared to fight back, because he thought we lived in a world now where he could do that, the man took out a gun and killed him. That’s bad enough. That’s terrible. That’s not even the worst of it. The man who killed Trayvon has not even been arrested. He told the police that it was he who was assaulted. He told police that it was he who feared for his life. He claims he shot and killed this kid in self-defense. And they bought it. They didn’t test him for drugs. They didn’t investigate his claims. They didn’t investigate the claims of eye witnesses who have a different telling of the story. They didn’t talk to Trayvon’s girlfriend who said he called her and told her that he was afraid. The police just let this man go on the strength of his word. He’s still walking around free today. His word against a dead, unarmed black boy who “looked suspicious”.

All of these things. All of these things flash through my mind when I hear the word nigger. And that’s when it’s overt. That’s only the times when people who have this hate in their hearts even bother to tell you that they hate you. Most of the time, you will never know. You will never know if they aren’t hiring you because they don’t want too many of your kind around the office. You will never know if they told their daughter she couldn’t see you and that’s why she didn’t call you back. You will never know if that judge gave you 5 extra years on a small drug charge just to “keep you off the streets”. You will never know if the guy who is following you through the convenience store is just checking on you, or if he is ready to blow your head off if he thinks you’re going to steal something. You will never know if they reject your legislation because they simply don’t agree, or because they will never allow a nigger to successfully run this country. Big things and small things. Every day we deal with this. Every. Single. Day.

Would you trade your few honky incidents for that? Do you still think these definitions of “racism” are equal?

As a small final note to this chapter, it is my opinion that if you are called a terrorist, you should feel some of the same dread for your life and livelyhood that I’ve described above. With the atmosphere in this country right now, that word is gaining almost as much fear, hatred and violence behind it as the N word. I would be concerned.

I thought we were talking about women

Yeah, that last section got away from me. But are the parallels starting to emerge? The length of that section on racism should tell you how much this issue affects me. How it permeates my life and colors everything I am. From what I understand, this issue of sexism does something similar for women.

Every time they walk into a room full of men, there are countless things they have to consider. When men look at them, it may not just be a look. When men reject them for jobs or don’t invite them to conferences or make off color jokes with them, they can never be sure what that means.

There are a lot of facets to this, but let’s talk about objectification for one. The way I define this (which is not from a textbook), is when women are treated as though their sole purpose is for the sexual gratification of men. That sounds harsh doesn’t it? It sounds far-fetched and removed from the innocuous examples we seem to be harping about. There was a video with a half-dressed woman. So what? Men like looking at women. Is that bad?

Ostensibly no, but if you think that’s the extent of the issue, then you’ve actually outlined part of the problem. The only person with autonomy who is considered in that reasoning is the man. He wants to lust over women, so he should be able to. How does the woman feel? What does it mean to her that a man is looking at her, undressing her with his eyes, and picturing explicit sexual things that he would like to do to her? Is it starting to feel creepy yet? Let me ask you, as a man, how would you feel in a room full of strange men looking at you that way? Not so great? Now ask yourself why a woman would feel any different.

Because she is heterosexual, you say (we’re assuming hetero). Because if I was in a room full of women looking at me, it might be kind of cool, you say. Now you’ve hit on the other important point about this sexism thing. Most men don’t understand that most women are not like them. Most women don’t get off on being the object of sexual desire to strange men. They don’t enjoy the idea that strange men are preoccupied with their sexuality. It doesn’t matter what you would like. They don’t want your lust infecting them. It means something different to them. The rules you use as a man do not apply the same way.

So why is this? Why are they so different? They still like sex right? (yes they do, but there’s also a lot there to explore) Well why doesn’t it manifest the same way for them as it does for us? Let’s go back to that woman in a room full of men thing. Why is she apprehensive about the prospect that these men might be looking at her with arousal? It is because men can exert power over women.

Whoa, back up. This is sounding bad right? But stay with me. A woman knows that at any time, if she’s in the wrong situation with men, or just one man, they could decide to take away her control. Simply by virtue of being stronger. Historically, when men have wanted something from women, they have simply taken it. In “westernized” societies for many centuries, women have been subservient to men. They were expected to obey and to serve. Their livelyhood was dependent on a man providing for them. If they did not obey they could be beaten with impunity. Their children could be taken away. And they were not considered equal members of society. No right to vote. And this was considered normal. Sound familiar?

The history between men and women is complex. Just as complex as that of blacks and whites. The effects are still being played out today. We’ve all read the stories about the woman who was raped. But her attacker got off scott free. If he was even arrested. Many victims are shamed and blamed for what happened to them. Like it was their fault. The man was just doing what men do. She gave “signals”. This still happens today. In our oh-so-enlightened society.

So sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes, when a woman finds herself in a group of strange men, she may be uncomfortable. She might be apprehensive about whether these men see her as a peer or as a sexual object. Maybe they try to do both at the same time. Let’s say something happens to heighten this sense of sexual objectification. Like projecting pornographic images on a large screen to these men. How would that make a woman feel? Can you imagine? So when women complain about objectification today, it’s because they know what men are capable of. The fact that some men still look at them as merely sexual gratification has cause to make them fear. More so, because these men look exactly like the good ones.

But women are tough. They have fought hard against these things. They’ve managed to create an atmosphere where that kind of thinking is not okay. They don’t have to overtly fear as much as they used to (but if you think they don’t fear at all, you’re mistaken). Mainly these days, it causes women frustration and anger when they see instances of objectification. Because we *should* be past this. They should *not* have to keep dealing with this. We should *know* better by now. And yet, I’m writing this because some men still don’t even understand that it’s a problem, and that they are part of it. And some women too.

And we’ve only really talked about objectification. We haven’t even touched on the other hundreds of indignities, both large and small, that women deal with on a daily basis from men who don’t respect their autonomy. Sexism is a wide topic. I can’t cover it all here.

But unfortunately we’re not done yet.

On the meaning of Privilege

Okay, I’m not sure who’s still with me. If you are, I hope I’ve got you thinking. I hope you’re starting to examine the things that you do every day that might make women and/or minorities feel insecure. Notice I didn’t say the things you “might” do. The things you DO. You definitely do. You just don’t notice it and nobody tells you.

You may be saying I’m full of shit. That the problem isn’t as big as I make it out to be. You may be confident that you’re not part of the problem. You may be thinking of all the counter-arguments that usually arise at this stage. You may be still thinking you just don’t get it.

This is also a very important piece of the puzzle. You don’t get it because you don’t *feel* it. These things that we are talking about rarely come up in your life. You try to understand them objectively or intellectually, but you will fall short. The things women go through, men most often do not. The things black people go through, white people most often do not. The reason you get to act like these things don’t exist, or if they do they are remote and not a huge deal, is because you are part of a privileged class.

Privilege is a peculiar thing. It is related to terms like elitism or aristocracy. But it’s actually not the same as those things at all. It just so happens that those things also generally come with privilege. But even someone who feels like they are low on the social class scale can enjoy privilege.

The way I define this (which is not from a textbook) is when a class of people have advantages given to them automatically, simply by being a member of the class, that are not afforded to members of other classes. Let’s put this into context. As a man, you have probably never felt objectified. You don’t understand the offense, because it’s not something that even affects you. That is a privilege you (we) receive as a man. We don’t have to fear that the sexual appetites of women will impose themselves on us. Sure there are some exceptions. There always are. But they are remote. Removed from us. We don’t lose sleep over this issue.

In the same way, if you are a white person in this country, you enjoy privilege. You do not fear that, if you are suspected of a crime, the police will throw out all concept of justice and due process and just take away your freedom or your life.

But wait! Maybe you do. I know lots of people who are outraged over the recent decisions by the Obama administration that degrade our civil liberties (NDAA, etc). The president can indefinitely detain you, he can sentence you without a trial, and he can even order your death with no accountability for that action. All he has to do is say you’re “suspicious”, er, I mean a “terrorist”. That’s scary right? Well for me, this is not a new thing. For me it doesn’t even have to be the president. It could just be an angry cop, or a racist judge. You rail against these things like they are new, because you are now vulnerable. You are no longer part of the privileged class that did not have to worry about these things happening to you. You could be labeled a terrorist at any time. You fear for yourself and your loved ones. So now you feel it.

And that’s what is so insidious about privilege. Many times, people that enjoy it don’t even realize they enjoy it, unless they lose it. It doesn’t even register with them that the lives of others don’t have the same baseline as theirs. We will never lose the privilege of being male. We will never truly be able to grasp what privileges that affords us compared to women. We don’t even have to think about it. And when we are forced to think about it, our natural reaction is denial.

Denial. That is also a strong force at work here. It starts with the definition of these things. That’s why I try to define these concepts like objectification and privilege the way I see them. Every discussion should be framed by our a mutual understanding of what we’re talking about. Because many men have created their own idea of what it means. And that has allowed them to deny that they do it.

Many men like to think of objectification as an overt thing. They confuse it with exploitation. They assign negative connotations and malicious intentions to it. They decide that only “bad” people do it. This is a neat psychological trick. What it does is give me a way out. If only “bad” people do this, there’s no way I’m doing it, because I’m not a bad person. Nobody wants to think of themselves as a bad person. So they go to great lengths to avoid doing that. Including twisting the definition of things to serve that goal. It’s the same with racism. So we can start to examine some of the counter-arguments and see them break down.

“It can’t be that bad. Men looking at attractive women is a natural thing!” – What’s natural does not automatically equate with good. It’s arguably natural for you to want to hurt someone when you’re angry at them. Being civilized means that you restrain yourself from doing that, because it causes harm to the other person. In the same way, you should restrain yourself from abusing your sexual gaze with women. It does them harm.

“It can’t be that bad, women often participate in objectification!” – Yes and black people do commit crimes. But some black people committing a crime does not give us the license to sentence all black people to a life of fear and struggle. Some women being okay with objectification does not mean *you* can think it’s okay. The issues with the oppressed class do NOT negate the responsibility of the privileged class. You still have to work on bettering yourself.

Believe me when I say that responsible black people have real problems with our criminal element. And responsible women have real problems with these ladies who continue to prance around in their underwear for the enjoyment of men. We should try to improve these things. But that is a separate issue to what you do with your privileged position.

“It can’t be that bad. It happens to some men, and we handle it okay.” – First of all, when it does happen to men, they do not handle it okay. Do some research on the effects that emerge when men truly feel objectified and sexualized without their consent.

More importantly. We have to stop drawing these false parallels. The fact that it happens to some men, in remote instances, that you’ve kind of heard about, just doesn’t cut it. It is not on a grand enough scale. You cannot use this to tell women to “suck it up”, “deal with it”, or “lighten up”.

Let’s draw this comparison to the example about civil liberties. People are really upset about that. But how many US citizens have been detained? How many US citizens have been killed? Not very many in the scheme of things. Even considering that we don’t know about some of them. But if I told you to “lighten up”. “It’s probably not that bad”. “Some of those guys *are* terrorists”. Does that make you feel better? Probably not. And this type of thing doesn’t even happen every single day.

So what can I do?

This has been a long journey. If you’re still with me, I hope it’s not because I’ve completely convinced you. I hope it’s because you’re starting to ask more questions. I’ve only scratched the surface of both of these issues of sexism and racism. And remember, I’m probably not qualified. I probably got a million things wrong about sexism because I really don’t have the credentials to speak on it. I’ve made some generalizations here that won’t hold up to hard scrutiny. If there are women still reading, I hope you’re not completely furious and I hope you’ll try to educate me where you feel I’ve misrepresented.

Again, I’ve only given you my understanding. But that understanding motivates me to try hard every day not to abuse my privilege with women. The same way I hope that white people don’t abuse their privilege with me.

It’s hard. Not only because there are no set rules to follow. Not only because we (men) are not really wired to thoroughly empathize with women on the issue of sexism. But mostly because, once you really start trying to be mindful, you realize that you will never be done. You will have to fight to stay on the right side of this thing constantly. Your stupid brain will try to get the better of you in ways you won’t even realize until it’s too late. You’ll wonder how you got to the point of people screaming at you on twitter. You *will* mess this up from time to time.

So what can you do? Just fix it. Apologize first, then fix it, however you can. And try to understand what you did wrong so you don’t inadvertently do it again. And then go about your day as normal and be thankful that you are privileged. It’s not a bad thing in itself, but it is a great responsibility.

82 thoughts on “What’s the big deal?

  1. Well written. I think, male or female, you seem to have a pretty good grasp on why it’s an issue.

    I’m pretty easygoing, and am not typically offended by the dancing girl in her undies, or whatever. That said, I recently had my manager at work ask me if I was “just repeating what [my] boyfriend told me” about a technical topic. Which is extraordinarily NOT OKAY. I think he thought he was joking.

    Said boyfriend had a really excellent point: it’s not okay to make anyone offended or uncomfortable, for any reason, be it intelligence, age, gender, race, job, etc. And he is, like you, a tech guy who respects anyone who is good at their job, regardless of all the other stuff.

    But he’s still a guy. And he will still say, ‘if it bothers you, say something! you can’t expect people to change if they don’t know that it’s offensive!’. He’s right, and yet…

    You raised the point that after a while, enough times, you stop speaking up because it’s futile. It gets worse, though, because let’s say I did speak up about what my manager said to me. My word against his. What’s the likelihood that my complaint is taken seriously? Or more likely, I’m coming across as whining. Emotional. Then I’m seen as even less capable of my job, because I can’t let some petty comment go. Even though his petty comment was effectively saying, “you can’t know what you’re talking about, but because your boyfriend is a developer, you’re just repeating what he says.”

    For a guy, I think the key is not to do anything that could potentially be offensive–to anyone. I know that seems like a massive undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be. The dancing girl in her undies… could that be offensive to a woman? To a very religious man? To your grandma? Would you show your kid? No? Then don’t. Maybe those people aren’t your target audience, but what’s the real difference between dancing girl in jeans, and dancing girl in undies?

    The second thing is like you said: “You try to understand them objectively or intellectually, but you will fall short. ” Let’s be very clear: just because you don’t understand why someone was offended, doesn’t mean they weren’t offended. @kurafire’s tweet of ‘”I’m sorry you were offended” is not an apology’ is very true. That just means, “stop whining about it.” Guys do that gaslighting thing (http://thecurrentconscience.com/blog/2011/09/12/a-message-to-women-from-a-man-you-are-not-%E2%80%9Ccrazy%E2%80%9D/) all the time, unconsciously. Just because it may not be logical to you, or offensive to you, doesn’t mean that the feelings we’re having on it are not valid or real to us. So please don’t invalidate our feelings. (I think the geeklist story is prime example of that. I don’t think she should have started off as angrily, but they RAPIDLY devolved into mind-boggling threats and gaslighting and then straight up lying.)

    I think a lot of us girls would just settle for guys to have a calm, normal response to this stuff. Maybe guys will never understand, and frankly, I think half the time girls are overly sensitive. But there’s nothing more demoralizing than the instant response being, “lighten up, i was just joking,” or “you’re so sensitive/crazy,” or worse, “how could that possibly have offended you?”. Even when not said in those exact words (see: geeklist), the point is clear: Get off it, it’s not important. Your thoughts/feelings on this? Not valid. And I’d be fine with girls dancing in their underwear all over the place, as long as nobody ever made me feel invalidated ever again.

    Or told me that I only knew about something tech related because my boyfriend told me. Thing is, it’s not always that clear.

  2. Thanks. As an anecdote, I had an experience where I was pestered, followed, and then groped by another male at a club (I am a man). Asked about it afterwards by some friends, I didn’t feel too upset (compared to female friends who had similar experiences). However, I also realized that the difference in this situation was that I still felt in control and felt I had the power. I was considerably larger than this man and there wasn’t any fear of being in a situation I couldn’t control. If instead the guy had been a 300lbs body builder and there was a real threat of being further violated, I think I’d have felt differently.

  3. Re: Men feeling comfortable being objectified– good point. They’re only comfortable being sexualized in a context where they are still “in control”. Put any man in a situation where a bigger, stronger person is objectifying them and it’s not so comfortable anymore. For men to kind of relate to this, you have to sort of imagine being in a room of 10 people and 9 of them are bigger than you– some way bigger. And they’re all hooting and hollering over a really sexy picture or video of another man. You know that feeling where you want to slowly sneak out the door? Yeah.

    Like you said, the reality is that sort of circumstance is not likely to happen in most men’s lives so it’s not part of their life experience.

    Women deal with it constantly. And yeah in a way, it’s made a lot of us numb and confused. Many women even go through a phase where they associate irresponsible sexual behavior as an example of their being “comfortable with their sexuality” or “liberated sexually”. Really, it’s just another effort to try and make yourself comfortable with what you’re flooded with daily even though it’s wrong.

    You know what happens when a woman walks into a room full of tech guys and is able to participate fully in the discussion because she is informed and educated the way they are? She threatens the stereotype and that makes them uncomfortable. She might not like the discomfort she feels so she tries to make them see her as one of them. She comments on how hot the girl is they’re leering at because that justifies the fact they’re drooling over some naked chick in a totally inappropriate venue (because hey if the woman is ok with it, then it’s not wrong). You know what would happen if the woman instead snapped, “That shit is offensive and inappropriate for a work place. Turn it the hell off.” Well they’d just lose it wouldn’t they? And they’d rush to fit her into some mold and what’s the best one to go to?

    Ah yes, she’s a bitch. That explains it. That’s what’s wrong with her. Why can’t she just be cool? What’s the big deal?


    Sorry. Your post is brilliant. Thank you.

  4. Thank you for taking on these issues. :)
    I have felt uncomfortable once or twice when working in tech but not by any of my fellow developers. <3
    In my current position I don't feel objectified so much as just inferior. Not even by my fellow employees either, by the locals in the town. On one occasion I was having a bit of trouble starting my mower and some guy pulled off of the road and into the parking lot to offer assistance. I know he meant well. But seriously, I got hired to do my job because my boss saw me fit to do it. I was not hired with the expectation that I would need additional assistance to complete my tasks. If I really need help I can ask for it, I don't need a random stranger to sweep in rescue me like a damsel in distress.
    Just recently some guy said I am a hard worker. I appreciated that recognition but I wasn't doing a *whole* lot of hard work that day, so I had to question if what he really meant was I was working hard *for a woman*. It is not uncommon for people driving by my place of work to roll down their windows and make comments about the hard work I'm doing (simple yardwork), it happens A LOT. I would bet a lot of money that they don't treat men doing yardwork the same way.
    I really do wish that people could just see me as a "dude" trying to cut grass but because I am a girl that is what they see first. I will admit being a "novelty" does make me feel special but when I'm out there sweating my face off the last thing I want is to feel belittled.
    Of course my mower was acting up because it was a piece of shit, not because I couldn't start it (which I did get it started that day). My boss has since purchased a new one. :)

  5. This was a great article. Thank you for writing it. There are some great comment follow-ons and I hope it leads to other people “getting it”. But I know that the obstacle is going to be breaking through that ingrained self image of “But I’m a good person!”

  6. Ok I just thought of another thing lol. Recently I was moving large fold up tables at work for a guest appearance at an event to use and said guest’s assistant told my boss that he would help move the tables, I didn’t need to be doing all that. I wanted to pick that table up and throw it at him. Again I know he meant well but a lot of women work out and take good care of themselves. I am in better shape than a lot of the guys I work with (who eat poorly and don’t exercise), no doubt. I may not be stronger but I can work harder and longer. Frustrating!

  7. Great post. I’m a black software engineer in the Bay Area and I’m glad someone is speaking about these topics. The issues of racism and sexism definitely have many parallels.

  8. I would say your reasoning and parallels between racism and sexism are spot on. Thank you for giving such a well thought explanation of the situation from a male point of view.

  9. Thank you for writing this long, well-written essay. I do not agree with you on everything. Additionally, I think you have poisoned the well because I cannot even address your points without first proving I am not in denial and that I am not oblivious to my male privilege.

    I realize that my accusation of poisoning the well will be called gaslighting — this is further poisoning because I am now two degrees removed from being able to discuss the issue with you.

    This is just not a good way to change hearts and minds. People who are prevented from being heard react in ugly ways. I won’t, but you’ve cited some examples of others who have.

    I sincerely hope you will read this in good faith.

  10. @michael I absolutely do expect you to engage with me on this. I will listen eagerly as long as you come from a place of openness. Not even necessarily respect if you feel I haven’t earned it. But at least openness to discussing in good faith.

    I really tried to convey that I don’t have all this figured out. Some of it is wrong and I just don’t know it yet. Some of it you may disagree with and I’m fine with disagreement. It was hard for me to write this post for the same reason it’s hard for you to decide to engage with my argument. There’s so much ammo for shooting down discourse. I totally get that. But try me. My way of viewing this stuff is certainly not the only way. But let’s try to start from a place of agreement. What do you agree with? And where did it go off the rails for you?

    Above all thank you for reading.

  11. To everyone else, I am absolutely humbled by the responses I’ve gotten so far. I appreciate it so much. The positive and negative and especially the skeptical. Thank you.

  12. Thank you for writing this. When all of this was happening yesterday (and the night before), I was trying to explain why it was a big deal to my boyfriend (a white male) and was having trouble verbalizing it. After some failed attempts, I ended up just saying “you can’t understand,” and “it’s hard to explain what’s it like to be marginalized to someone who has never experienced it.” Neither of which are very helpful. You basically summed up everything in an easy (ish) to understand, eloquent way. :)

    There is one point that I think you missed (not invalidating the rest of your thoughts though). As a woman, especially in tech, I don’t feel objectified very often. Even when I’m out, if I feel it, it doesn’t bother me that much. I rarely feel unsafe because of leering men. What I do experience is dismissal. I’m dismissed as being an intellectual peer by many men in the tech industry. When they speak to me, they’re “dumbing down” their words and using “puppy” or “baby” voice (maybe not to that extent, but you get what I mean.) I know it’s not only that I’m a woman; I’m also young and an “artist” (UI/UX). It’s like the developer dismissal trifecta!

    Anyway, thanks again. Hopefully more men will read this in an attempt to understand. :)

  13. @melissa Yeah I agree. There was a point I reached when writing this when I realized I couldn’t cover all of the different things that stem from sexism or racism. And I decided to go with some clear parallels and the things that would possibly have more impact. I feel like today, the thing that most keeps women out of tech is the lack of professional respect. This is a good point to tell a short story of where I was definitely part of the problem.

    My current company is growing very rapidly and we hire people all the time. I’m in the engineering department but we have lots of others: sales, customer support, etc. Well at one of our company events I ended up chatting with a woman I hadn’t met. She told me she was new to the company, and I told her I was in engineering. I needed to find some topics we could chat about, so I wanted to find out what department she worked in. But instead of just asking “what department do you work in?”, I decided to be clever. I had never seen her before. Not that I know everybody, but our engineers all hang out in the same area, and you see faces. So I assumed she was probably not an engineer. I asked, “so are you on the second floor? sales or CSM?”. She was very good natured, but sadly shook her head. “No, third floor, I’m an engineer”.

    Damn! I totally messed this up. She probably felt like I didn’t think she could possibly be an engineer because she was a woman. I know that wasn’t the case. Or at least I’m pretty sure that’s not where it came from. I just assumed that if I hadn’t seen her in the giant open space of engineers that I traverse often, she probably wasn’t an engineer. But it turns out I hadn’t seen her because she hadn’t officially started yet. She was a new hire and was invited to this company event before starting in a few days. Doh! I felt like such an ass. I didn’t really know how to recover. I shifted to saying how it was awesome she was coming on board, because we had been struggling to hire good people (this was true). She let the moment pass instead of nailing me to the wall. But I was keenly aware that I had totally failed. I still feel bad about it. I haven’t apologized yet actually. I’m going to do that now.

  14. This is really excellent. I’ll echo what everyone else has said: I believe you capture the parallels really well. However, I’m not sure about some of the specifics. Other women may feel differently about this, but I think the problem with objectification isn’t quite as you’ve stated it.

    To start, there’s this: “And responsible women have real problems with these ladies who continue to prance around in their underwear for the enjoyment of men.”

    That’s slut shaming. I’m a responsible woman, and I have no problems with women prancing around in their underwear. I have pranced around in my own underwear, within what I consider an appropriate context. While I think we all understand by now that a woman who prances around in her underwear does not deserve to be assaulted – that the way she behaves or dresses does not mean she’s “asking for it” – it’s harder to get people behind the more subtle idea that a woman gets to choose when and by whom she’s seen as a sexual object, and that because she’s chosen to be a sexual object at some other time or around other people doesn’t make her the free samples bar. The geeklist thing makes a great example. I suspect there are a number of men out there who, if they met the model from the video fully clothed, wouldn’t think twice about ogling her, flirting with her, maybe even touching her, because they’d seen her in a sexualized position once. And yet she’s the last person they should be sexualizing, because she was in her underwear for professional reasons, not sexual ones.

    And the issue gets more complicated when you consider the flipside. A woman who asks not to be sexualized really has one other choice, to become “one of the boys,” doing nothing to remind men of her femininity and allowing and participating in locker room talk. There’s a word for unobjectified women who don’t play that game: invisible. You implied above that what women fear when walking into a room full of men is that all the men are thinking about how they want to do her. I think this is close to accurate, but not quite. I think women fear the result of the assessment they suspect is happening when men see them for the first time, i.e., “would I fuck her?” If the answer’s yes, she needs to try and avoid that man. If the answer’s no, it means he will literally ignore her. If the answer’s neutral? We’re taught by media, advertising, and facepalms like sqoot and geeklist’s that that doesn’t happen.

    Knowing strangers are assessing your sexuality before anything else about you, I suspect, does fit your analogy to crime really well. No one wants to be marked a slut, prude, or criminal before she’s even opened her mouth. Again, excellent post.

  15. @garann Wow, beautifully said! That was the only issue I had with the post — what you called “slut shamming” — but couldn’t really articulate why. Thanks for voicing your opinion on that.

    What we need to remember is this is not a binary issue. Treating as such creates a false dichotomy. We shouldn’t confuse sex, sexy or sexual with sexism. The issue is whom is making the choice.

    Empowering women to make those choices without fear of judgement, ridicule or loss of control is, in my opinion, the best way forward. What is not is complete censorship.

  16. Pingback: Women in Computing | Pearltrees

  17. Marco, thanks for a good post. Here’s one thing I would add:

    When men reject them for jobs or don’t invite them to conferences or make off color jokes with them, they can never be sure what that means.

    Actually, it isn’t just then. It’s also when men accept us for jobs or do invite us to conferences, because when that happens, we can never be sure if it’s because they respect us as technologists or if it’s because they just want a woman around to look at. We can also never be sure if someone’s just trying to fill a diversity quota for the wrong reasons: to score political points, rather than because they actually care about how diversity makes the group smarter and stronger. And as much as it sucks if men make off-color jokes when I’m around, it also sucks if they suddenly stop making off-color jokes when I show up, because then I’m in the position of feeling like they can’t wait for me to go away so that they can go back to relaxing and speaking freely. So I lose either way.

    I’m sure you’ll appreciate what I mean when I say this: it’s all the time. It doesn’t ever stop, even though most of the time, nothing overt is happening. When I’m at work and I’m the only woman in a room of ten or twelve or fifty guys, my being female becomes a Thing, whether I want it to be or not. I’m forced to be aware of it, and it’s distracting — especially if I feel I have to represent my entire gender. In fact, I think part of the point of women-only tech events is to give the participants a chance, once in a while, to be in a professional context without the distraction of having to be hyper-aware of their gender.

  18. This is a great post for the most part. I would suggest, though, reconsidering using the language of offense (e.g. “offending women”). The reason is that this, in my opinion, cedes the discourse to the side of the privilege-deniers. The problem with any number of sexist actions is not that they offend women, but that they *oppress* women. Same thing goes with someone being racist towards you — as you explain very clearly, they are *oppressing* you, not offending you.

    The difference is that anyone can be offended, so talking about offending people cedes the argument to the sorts of people who believe in “reverse sexism” and “reverse racism”. But some people are oppressed, and some people oppress.

  19. @catamorphism That’s a really good point! That makes it much harder to dismiss — “sorry I oppressed you” carries the needed gravitas; “sorry I offended you” does not.

  20. Thank you for a thoughtful, considered perspective. I’d be happy to have you as an advocate any time! I’m grateful to you for articulating things that I feel, and deal with daily, in such a measured, calm way. Bravo, sir.

  21. @garann I’m so glad you showed up. I was really hoping you’d give us your input. There are parts of this I still struggle to understand well, and slut shaming is one of them.

    Let me start by giving my feeling on shaming. It has negative connotations, but I try to define shaming as social pressure to make people feel bad about unacceptable actions. That may be wrong. I’m ready to adjust that definition. But using that definition, it’s obvious that making people ashamed of their actions has important benefits in a civilized society. It’s how we keep people from being animals (other than state-sanctioned punishment). But it’s also obvious that this is tricky. We have to carefully define what actions are “unacceptable” or we will go overboard into taking away a person’s agency. The only thing that trumps a person’s individual agency is if their actions harm others. But then we have to define the type of “harm” and we start getting really frustrated about how to get this right.

    But I digress. The truth is I need help with the idea of slut shaming. It’s such an ugly term that it’s hard to engage with. Any self-respecting person is going to shy away from that immediately. So it’s difficult to even examine. But I will try. It seems that by your definition, there was nothing wrong with the geeklist video or any content where a woman has agreed to let her body be a visual treat for men. It’s her choice. Is that accurate? So if it’s okay for women to choose to be objectified, then all public media that seems to objectify women is actually okay? That seems to jibe with the post that Isaac also put up recently trying to dissect what is okay and what is not about the video situation. http://blog.izs.me/post/19786163075/sexism-words-and-marketing (I encourage folks to go check it out).

    I still feel like I may be misunderstanding you though. So I went back and read your comment a few more times. I think the key part of your explanation is the phrase “what I consider an appropriate context”. This gets at the heart of things I think. So in my post, I made a point to use a certain term when talking about women being uncomfortable or threatened. Not just around men, but around “strange men”. The easy definition of this is “men the woman doesn’t know”. But that’s not rigorous enough. Even if she knows them a little bit, it might not be okay. More generally, the definition I have seems to match yours. “Strange men” actually means “any men the woman did not choose”. I can get behind that. So maybe my original statement wasn’t well-defined enough. I don’t object to a woman choosing to be in her underwear around men ever. But there is an appropriate place and there is an inappropriate place. But who defines that? Solely the woman? Nobody else around gets a say?

    So if I haven’t botched this too bad, I would add a few more thoughts. It seems to me, if a woman chooses to be in a video in her underwear, she’s chosen to give up her agency about who can gaze at her sexually. (ONLY in that case, not forever. And it still doesn’t open the door to violation or violence.) I might also have that wrong somewhere. But either way, it still behooves the owners of that video to be responsible with the images she’s given them and what they use them for. Once it becomes a media product separate from the woman’s body, it can do harm on it’s own. Or more accurately, other people can do harm with it without the woman’s consent. I believe this is where the frustration of some women comes from. It’s the same frustration I feel when I see black people acting ignorant and doing the equivalent of modern minstrel shows. Yes, it’s their choice. But damn it, it affects the rest of us in some ways that are really important.

  22. @catamorphism I think I get where you’re going. But I think both of these words have pros and cons in terms of discourse. Oppressing is clearly the more relevant term. It’s actually the problem. But it also greatly increases the chances of dismissal and denial. It’s tough. Offending is at least something everyone understands. But the problem is that it is outside themselves. A person can be offended even if you didn’t do anything wrong. It’s so subjective.

    Actually, I’ll tell you how I feel about this particular issue of offending people. It seems that people feel they shouldn’t ever be offended. If they are offended that must mean the thing in question is wrong. But that’s not true. There is too much subjectivity to morals and values to expect that nobody ever does anything to offend somebody else. It’s not the offense that’s a problem in itself. The question is, does the feeling of offense come from real oppression or some other form of harm to that person? The person who has allegedly offended, do they respect the accusation and examine it honestly to see if they actually did anything wrong? That is important. But if they examine honestly and decide they have done no harm, they should stand on their convictions. We can’t let false offense keep us from making our own decisions and exercising our freedom any way we choose. As long as you don’t harm anyone else.

    I’m still grappling with that one as well. I really appreciate your thoughts. I wish I could use “oppression” when trying to talk to people, but I suspect that far too many people will be closed off by that accusation.

  23. You rightly say that women and women that dress provocatively are two distinct sets. You rightly say that black people and black criminals are two different groups. AND YET, your entire post you pass judgement on all white males as being racist and sexist.

    I roundly reject any attempt to make me feel guilty simply for being a white male. It is bullshit. You put the burden on me to fix it because of two things about me that I had zero control over. Are there white men who are racist and sexist, obviously there are. But why is it my problem? Do you think that non-terrorist Muslims responsible for fixing the fact that some Muslims like to blow up a super market or cut off the heads of missionaries?

  24. @lindsey Thanks for your thoughts. I don’t have much to comment on. I would actually ask for your opinion on what men should do to make you feel more comfortable? There are a lot of us who really want you to stay around and we would like to enjoy your company. How can we make it less stressful for you? I didn’t touch this topic, because I don’t think I fully understand how to do that really.

  25. @bob Thanks for this. I think it’s really important to address it. First let me say that I never meant to pass judgment on white people as a whole at all. Further, I really don’t expect (or want) you to feel guilty at all. People shouldn’t feel guilty about being privileged, because as you said, it’s not something you choose. I fully agree with that. I don’t think women pass judgment on all men either.

    I can see how you would draw the conclusion that I think all white people are privileged and therefore racist. But that’s a false connection. It’s not true and I never meant to suggest it. If did I am deeply sorry. Please point it out so I can do better. What I meant is that racism is a negative concept that is *enabled* by privilege. What I really mean is that being privileged is something you have to be explicitly aware of. Because if you’re not aware of it, you may end up on the wrong side of things without even realizing it.

    But the more I think, I realize that it is difficult to separate these things. I did say that people with privilege will do the wrong thing sometimes because they don’t realize it. But how is this different from people doing some terrible racist thing and then saying “I didn’t mean it”? Can we tease these 2 apart? I’m not sure. I did say that just because you don’t have malicious intent, that doesn’t make it okay. So it seems there’s no way out for you. That’s really problematic and I didn’t meant to paint us into that corner. It’s a bad corner, because if you feel you can’t help but be labeled “racist”, why would you bother to engage and try to understand at all? That’s definitely not what I want.

    So maybe we need to adjust the narrative a bit. It seems like you do understand where I am going with the idea of “privilege”. But I think I agree with you that we need to do more to distance that from automatically meaning “racist by default”. What do you suggest? As I see it, there are at least 2 states you can be in as a member of a privileged class.

    A) A person who abuses that privilege by doing what they please with their power. Or by denying their privilege while others feel the fear and discrimination. This is bad and what we want to avoid. I don’t think you’ve done this, even by your honest comments above.
    B) A person who is struggling to recognize privilege. Who tries to empathize with others. And who tries to do no harm despite the fact that they didn’t choose privilege. This person may still make mistakes. But they try to be mindful, they’re open to criticism and they try to right their perceived wrongs. If that is you, I welcome you with no equivocations and the last thing I want is for you to feel guilty.

    Let me also be clear about one other thing. You are not responsible for *fixing* anyone else. Anyone who says that to you is full of shit in my opinion. You can only try to fix yourself. I am trying to fix myself right now, by engaging with you and others who may think differently from me, and trying to find common ground. I don’t need you to feel responsible for the actions of others. But you can *choose* to try and be a force of change for the better. As long as you engage with people honestly, I think you are doing that work. I think it’s worthwhile too. I hope you’ll re-engage with me.

    Is this fair? Am I missing anything? I need you to help me out with this. This stuff isn’t easy for me either.

  26. @Marco: I definitely hear your concern that using terms like “oppression” will cause people to shut down, but in my experience, “offense” also causes people to shut down, for some of the reasons that you actually stated: for example, that people don’t have the right not to be offended. I think that’s true. And I also think that talking about social justice in terms of “rights” is not very productive anyway — I’d rather talk about what kinds of relationships we can have with each other than what we do or don’t have the right to do to each other. The latter sounds very coercive.

    Again, in my experience, people who have privilege (and I include myself in that, since I’m a white guy and while I haven’t always had the pleasure of being recognized as a guy, I’ve always been seen as white) will often get defensive when I point out their privilege. To me, that’s just a fact of life. I might as well use clear language that gets as close as possible to communicating what I believe. Sure, some people won’t listen, but that’s often not so much because of the language I choose as because it’s simply not in their interest to listen. When I speak, it’s for those who are willing to listen (or at least those who are listening enough that they might take my words to heart in a month or in 5 years), and those people benefit from me using words that say what I mean, even if those words seem harsh (that is, harsh by the standards of a world that rewards the obfuscation of abuse and punishes exposing abuse).

  27. (oh, and I’m the same person as “catamorphism” — sorry for the confusion, my account settings were half-finished when I posted the first comment.)

  28. @bob @marco, here’s the thing, as a white looking male I am privilege and again let me say as white looking male ALL white looking men DO have white privilege. Bob if you feel guilty about that then you might want to look at that. An easy way not to feel guilty about it is to be aware of your white privilege and NOT use it to get UNFAIR advantages.

    It’s not a opinion, it’s not a feeling but a fact that if you LOOK white (mind you not even actually are white) but if you look white you will NOT get racially profiled by police. it’s been studied and proven in scientific studies. And yet we have Bob saying well I have no privilege.

    @bob did you read the post, go back and read because your response is nothing but derailing. Who exactly do you think teaches white people it’s ok to be racist, who do you think teaches men that it’s ok to be sexist. Do you think people of colour and women are teaching men and white people to oppress them, to belittle and harass them? Who exactly needs to change. If as you claim you aren’t racist or sexist then why WOULDN’T you want to stop sexist and racism not as white man but as a HUMAN BEING.

    I give you a little example from my own life as a white man. I have worked in almost all men industries. I have seen time and time again women and people of colour tell white men to stop sexist and racist behavior and been IGNORED but when they have not just one person, not just one women, not just one person of colour but a group of people just like them (other white men) supporting those POC and women then they back the fuck down and start changing the behavior. Have one person tell you what you are doing is wrong but when you have people who when faced with their own sexist and racist behavior they tend to try to defend it just like you are doing bob.

    Final thought, you claim as white man you have no control over racism or sexism. Really you aren’t capable of telling your employees to make racist comments or do sexist behavior., you are not in charge of what you teach your children, you are not able to tell your other male white friends that their behavior. The burden of challenging racism and sexism is on everyone but it’s just more of your privilege maybe if think that racism and sexism is going to go away without white men being involved in changing it.

  29. @deathandfood My mistake. Yes, parents are definitely responsible for their kids. Please try to “fix” them if they are going in the wrong direction :)

    Thank you for reading. I don’t think I’m on board with everything you said. But your words are passionate. Passion is good when applied in the right place. The problem is that you and @bob might not be able to communicate as long as both of you are so worked up.

  30. Outstanding essay. You get it. Thanks so much for relating these ideas together. Until recently, I haven’t allowed myself to think about this subject, but by never reflecting on this issue, I’ve probably done my spirit a disservice.

    One frustration I have is to be initially underestimated. Both men and women have been guilty of this.

    For example, one time I was at a conference where a lot of companies recruit. I walked up to a booth and asked the two men who were working it if I could drop my reel off. (I’m a 3D artist). They responded that they were only looking for “experienced artists”. I told them that I had years of experience including working at Disney Animation. One guy then really looked at me up and down and said “We’re only looking for Very Experienced Artists, sorry.”

    Most of the time it’s a lot more subtle than the above example, but it’s there. Thanks again for approaching this subject with so much insight.

  31. Thanks for writing down your thoughts about this stuff. I would say you’ve done an excellent job of communicating a broad range of things succinctly and clearly. As a white male I know of these issues and work at bettering my understanding of them (and hopefully my behavior), but I know that I probably often fail. Drawing the parallel to racism the way you did was brilliant. Highlighting white & male privilege and likening them to the recent events was also well done.

    It’s really important that the things you’ve touched on be made it more salient in people’s minds. It certainly has been made so for me. Thank you.

  32. @Marco – I think we’re pretty much on the same page. I agree that shaming is part of how society enforces its morals, and is important. I don’t actually know the etymology of the phrase “slut shaming,” but I think it’s a little sarcastic, because we don’t *want* women to be shamed into ceding control over their sexuality to a society or anyone else in it.

    Even in the abstract I’m not really in favor of the geeklist video. Yes, naked women and the implication of sex is often used to sell clothing and especially lingerie, but that doesn’t mean that’s something to be proud of. Compare the woman in the video to a booth babe: she may be happy to be receiving a paycheck, and she acknowledged that she’d be ogled for the duration of that contract, but it doesn’t make me personally any less uncomfortable to know a company hired a person for me and others to ogle and objectify. It’s tricky, cause the model is just doing her job and is a consenting adult. But someone choose to employ her to prance around in her underwear instead of taking non-sexualized photos of her in a t-shirt *and pants* and using a mannequin for the underwear (which I still think is a stupid, juvenile thing for geeklist to be selling, but I can’t really articulate that well). When there’s money involved, the argument about women controlling their sexuality changes.

    Isaac’s post actually bugged me because it seemed to flippantly suggest that women’s sexuality is used to sell things, therefore women’s sexuality *should be* used to sell things. Is Victoria’s Secret likely to stop doing that any time soon? Probably not. Does geeklist need to do it? No.

    I think the other part of your comment – the “Lady, you can’t walk in here in your underwear!” part – is a really good point. A woman’s right to control her sexuality (or anyone’s, really) should end at the point where it’s making others uncomfortable by bringing sex into a situation where sex wasn’t on the menu. In practice, though, sex is almost always on the menu. Should sex be part of a technical trade show or geeklist’s merchandise offerings? No effing way. But someone purchased one woman’s control over her sexuality for a few hours, paraded her through a room where people were previously just thinking about technology, and now it’s not only somehow acceptable, it’s an arms race. We’re so desensitized to sex at this point that I’m hard-pressed to think of a place I’d be truly shocked if a model in underwear walked through advertising something.

  33. @garann – I agree with most of what you’ve said outside of the “desensitized to sex” bit which plays into the sales of lingerie/underwear. I’m not entirely sure I get where you are coming from on this (likely due to privilege).

    I feel we, as a society, are a bit too uptight and focused on sex in-so-much-that our response to it is “put some clothing on or get a mannequin”. In the scenarios where people have consented to being sexually objectified with each other, they may want products for those scenarios. Companies producing such products are looking to sell those products- lingerie, toys, etc. How does a mannequin correctly portray the products to be sold? The models, male/female/other, would obviously have to be consenting. But, they would likely be objectified for the purposes of sex and because of their sexuality. The question is, is this wrong? If not, where are the boundaries? Clearly slides at a tech conference are not ok and using sex to sell Geeklist is not ok (but we are talking more generally at this point). But, for what purposes are we willing to let people be objectified? For instance, we let sports players be objectified all the time but don’t scream and holler over it. This means that we are certainly ok with it for some things, but where do we draw the line?

    My point is that we shouldn’t be afraid of sex nor sexual objectification in general. But, that is based on there being a point at which it is ok. That point is determined by the purpose for which sex and/or sexual objectification is ok? Ultimately, is all sex bad? No. Are sales for sexually related products bad? No. Are sales for sex, using models bad? *shrug*? I don’t think so, but I also don’t have all of the baggage that Marco, you, and others have outlined so I don’t have any idea if this is accurate or if I’m “just another privileged male that doesn’t get it”. So, did I miss the point or does what I’ve said make sense (I also could have just restated what you were attempting to convey)?

    One other note is that while you may find it distasteful and juvenile, others do not. Apparently the people demand thongs with logos (cafepress and zazzle have this product and “feature” too I believe)! HUZZAH? I don’t care for them, but some people apparently like them. Why marginalize/dismiss them for their choices in clothing?

  34. This issue is so complex, you could write an entire book on it and still not cover all of the factors involved.

    Men are expected to pay for dinner (and other things). IMPLIES: Men are the breadwinners, they make more money than women.

    This alone is so far reaching and probably the most harmful thing, because so many women fall back to it and depend on it.

    I knew a girl who went on lots of dates, for the sole purpose of getting free food.

    Attractive women marry or are with guys solely for the purpose of money.

    Until we cut down on the number of women who depend on men to provide for them, sexism will forever exist, inside and outside of the tech industry.

    Stereotyping will forever be rampant, it is human nature, it’s how we are wired, it is a survival mechanism. The first thing we do when encountering something (or somebody) new is compare them to previous experiences and memories. This all happens (usually) subconsciously.

    If you see a car cut you off, you know to hit the brakes, and if you can, to change lanes or veer towards the shoulder of the freeway. How do you know this? Because you’ve seen it before, or experienced it before. Your brain computes similar previous experiences and acts accordingly.

    Not to say women are like cars, but the same thing applies to women and anybody else that can be categorized (whites, blacks, etc.).

    Personally, using racism as an example, the majority of black people I have met have been very real, nice and awesome people. I have very few negative experiences with blacks as a whole. Thus, when I meet somebody new, who is black, I actually have positive thoughts.

    I hear people say not to stereotype and I laugh. You can’t tell people not to stereotype, it happens subconsciously as a survival mechanism. What you can do is change the stereotype. This is the only thing you can do. It will happen. Girls, you just have to keep doing what you’re doing, it might not happen in our generation, but eventually the stereotype will change.

  35. @tim I think you missed the point.

    I personally have no problem paying for dinner on a date. I am no advocate for “men’s rights”.

    I was simply saying there are so many variables and factors involved and that they are all connected.

    My point was that every ditzy girl who looks good in a short skirt, and who uses that to her advantage to get by in life, negatively affects men’s outlook on women.

    Stereotypes are made up of past memories. If the number of women a person has met in his life are knowledgable, competent and passionate, then when he met another woman his outlook would be different.

    I’m not arguing that what men do is okay and right, but a lot of sexism occurs (unintentionally) from well-meaning and otherwise good people and I am trying to be real here and share a viewpoint.

    Women need to look to their own kind, not to men. Nothing will change otherwise, you can yell about it all you want, but until the stereotype changes, it will always be an issue.

    You have to change the stereotype, you can’t ask people not to stereotype. That was my point. It had nothing to do with men’s rights.

  36. @marco, please don’t tone police me. whether you call it being aggressive or passionate, that’s what it is. You do realize you are doing the exact same thing to me that the geeklist people did to shanley. TONE policing is never right whether you claim it’s aggressive or passionate.

    No I can not communicate with Bob but not because of MY tone but because he can not even admit that he is part of the problem and that he must be part of the solution. I don’t seek to communicate with him merely to point that everything he is saying is wrong.

    He’s doing the classic “well I don’t do that bad thing so I can’t stop anyone from doing it and I have nothing to with it”. you know like all those nice germans did while their neighbors were being carried away, like nice neighbors do when they hear husband beating their wives or when free black folks were kidnapped and sold into slavery.

    When you have black people playing apologizes it’s doesn’t make things better, they (white folks) will just use your words and you as an excuse to justify continuing the oppressive behavior. I get that group are conditioned that if they are too “passionate” as you call it and “uppity” as we all know is what people actually say, you run the risk of physical harm but again the problem isn’t people being passionate but a society that says you can kill someone for being passionate.

    But yup I remember where Gandhi, MLK, Goldman all said you just have to ask in a nice sweet voice and the oppressers will stop killing you. oh wait, that never happened.

    Also please check your slut shaming.

  37. @Marco

    With regard to your question “I would actually ask for your opinion on what men should do to make you feel more comfortable?” (and I’m going to assume that “you” == “women technologists in general”), I think something that everyone can do is acknowledge that the patriarchy is real, and that we’re all soaking in it. Lots of people have already taken that step. But it’s something that the privileged have to keep reminding ourselves of from time to time if we want to be responsible members of society. As you said yourself in your post, “once you really start trying to be mindful, you realize that you will never be done.”

    Beyond that, if you’re looking for concrete suggestions, the Geek Feminism wiki under “resources for allies” is a good place to start.

  38. @Nick – I’m genuinely unsure whether you’re trolling. To me your comment seems disingenuous. Sports players are not objectified any more than firefighters, lifeguards, or other people whose physical strength is crucial to their job description. Those are all respected positions, heroic professions, and they don’t lead to sexual objectificaton.

    I’m also not super thrilled to be accused of having “baggage” surrounding sex or sexuality. Objectification of women for money creates a culture that’s more violent and hostile toward women. Fortunately this isn’t a place where we have to debate people’s opinions or “baggage” because we have facts. Treating women as things correlates directly to violence against them. These aren’t my issues, nor, I assume, Marco’s. They’re everyone’s. Choosing not to recognize them, or reacting with accusations of prudishness, moves the whole conversation backward. Given the facts surrounding what happens to women when you use their sexuality to sell things, I’d turn your questions around: why is it necessary to have live models to sell lingerie and sex toys? Is it unclear what the products do, or how they’re supposed to be used? Is there some utility that only a living, exceptionally beautiful woman who’s been photoshopped can convey? Cause I think there is not.

    The same goes for your point about cafepress selling underwear. My question isn’t whether other people do it. Other people litter – that doesn’t mean I have to. My question is whether there’s any need for geeklist to do it. Who is this person you imagine requires a geeklist thong, or even boyshorts? Or, more to the point, how many pairs of underwear do *you* own with the logos of websites on them?

  39. @garann – Sports players are turned into numbers. In fact, to many they aren’t anything more than that. And, there have been athletes who have succumb to violence as a direct result. So, how is that any different than a man seeing a woman as anything more than an object (sexual or otherwise)? They are two different scenarios, sure, but they are linked in that way. Boxing used to be notorious for this. Regardless, it was an example. Are you saying it is different because it isn’t a race or gender issue? Or are you saying it is different because they chose to do that? I’m genuinely curious because I’m clearly missing something.

    As for the baggage comment, that was poor word choice, but my intention was to convey the things that go through your head when you enter a meeting, go to a conference, the scenarios that Marco mentioned, the ones he left out, and the scenarios that commenters have noted. It was not to say, “damn, being a woman must suck”. I consider the “extra” that you have to do to be unnecessary overhead since you could be doing much more than worrying about those things. Would you mind explaining how or where I’m wrong here?

    Another point, I didn’t say that you must have “a living, exceptionally beautiful woman who’s been photoshopped” to sell your items. I didn’t, in any way, describe the model, nor did I specify women. I only said a live person. I suppose it isn’t necessary to have live models selling your items. But, it is often helpful for people to see what things look like on real people with real movement. Of course I don’t _need_ it, but it can be helpful to imagine how that will look on me.

    Now, I made a point to say that “the market demands it”. If people want something, companies will supply it. If they don’t, companies wont. So, apparently people want boyshorts and thongs with logos. Do I think geeklist needs it? No. Do I wear underwear with logos? That is privileged information…*cough* I’m not suggesting that it is right, but that it currently is. This can change, but the market has to change first. Idealistically, the companies would just pull the product, but that isn’t likely to happen. So, people need to stop wanting the product.

  40. @garann Perhaps not the best choice of words but I think it was pretty clear the “baggage” @nick was referring to was a lack of white/male privilege. And I just have to take issue with this:

    “Fortunately this isn’t a place where we have to debate people’s opinions or “baggage” because we have facts. Treating women as things correlates directly to violence against them.”

    Let’s not conflate correlation and causation so freely. And ISTM you’re playing a fast and loose with the word “facts” here. I’ll buy your assertion that objectification creates a hostile culture but the above assertion is a value judgement and almost certainly a bridge too far.

  41. @Nick – The difference with athletes is that it isn’t sexual objectification. As a society, we don’t have a problem with looking at every man we see and judging his worth as a person on what we imagine his batting average to be.

    My personal intuition is that you misjudge the market for website-logo’d underthings. You don’t want to publicly answer the question about your own underwear, which is to my point. I’m going to assume that you consider your underwear your personal business, not a billboard for advertising a company. There are companies – Playboy and Victoria’s Secret being notable examples – that people do, for whatever bananas reason, pay for the privilege of advertising on their underwear, probably because those brands are supposed to hint to anyone who gets to see their underwear that they’re sexually liberated. That argument doesn’t extend to companies like geeklist. I can’t prove it, but I suspect the reason you see those sites selling underwear is because they wanted a societally accepted reason to pay a hot model to take her pants off. I just can’t imagine under what circumstance someone would seriously purchase those products (and cafepress, iirc, prints on demand). If you have a real world example, I’m all ears.

    @deanlandholt – By all means, don’t take my word for it. I researched this subject before opening my mouth. I’d certainly hope that you feel entitled to do the same.

  42. Great piece. Your article and the comments have covered a lot of ground. I’d recommend you and others interested in privilege should read this piece: http://www.amptoons.com/blog/files/mcintosh.html

    It’s one of the best things I’ve read on privilege and the connection between while/male privilege. As a black woman, when discussing privilege, I sometimes try to put myself in the shoes of white men. I can empathize with feeling as if you are sometimes labeled “the opressor” or “the privileged” even if your life may not have necessarily been so. For example, if you are a poor white boy growing up in poverty in America, it must be hard to be deemed “privileged” compared to say the Obama’s children.

    The challenge is that we all live in a damaged culture. Though we are taught to think of ourselves as moral individuals and live in a very individualistic society, we are still bound by that society. So even if you are not individually racist, the existence of racism means that white Americans are at a relative advantage. Even if you are not sexist, sexism means that men are at a relative advantage.

    It’s especially hard for Americans to acknowledge white/male/hetero privilege because we live in a so-called “meritocratic” society. I’ve found that people who believe they live in or operate in a meritocratic world often have an even harder time accepting the existence of white or male privilege. So in an industry like tech for example (which draws relatively liberal, progressive men and which styles itself as meritocratic), the accusation of misogyny or sexism hits people really hard because it goes against the whole way they’ve been taught to see themselves or who they believe themselves to be.

  43. I’m ignoring all the dolts trying to make themselves feel better in the face of cognitive dissonance and just say, Rock On! I am heartened to have an ally like you. Thank you.

  44. @dean Just a couple of thoughts. I think it’s not clear at all what “baggage” means the way it was used. I also gave the benefit of the doubt, but is a loaded term. But we have to choose our words carefully, and more importantly, we can’t assume we’re coming across the way you intended.

    As an example, I think some people might misinterpret you here. You challenge Garann’s version of facts without saying whether you’ve done any research that gives you a different view. I haven’t either. But when I heard what she said, it made perfect sense to me. I absolutely think we should be careful of drawing false ties between things. But if you believe at all that there are things that indicate and increase violence, then in the case of male violence against women, what else could possibly make more sense than this issue of objectification? I know you to be a reasonable guy, so I know you meant “I’m not sure about that, it would’ve been better if you provided some links”, but instead it came across as “why should we believe that? I’m not sure you’ve done any research”. Considering she used the word “facts”, you could’ve given her the benefit of the doubt that she had in fact looked them up, but just neglected to provide the sources.

  45. What a fantastic and thoughtful post! Now imagine being a middle-aged, or older woman–perhaps no longer ‘hot’ in the eyes of men.

  46. @garann I laughed at this because my fiance and I were talking about it too, and she was highly skeptical that there were enough women who want huge logos on their underwear to warrant putting together a video with decent production values and featuring it on your website. If you’re looking for an alternate reason why somebody would decide to do that, you could easily imagine a different conversation. “If we make underwear, we can put scantily clad women in it and use that to sell the other stuff we really hope to sell to guys!”. Ingenious.

  47. @deathandfood I’m sorry I haven’t replied before now, but I somehow missed your last comment.

    “TONE policing is never right” – This is just not true. You can say whatever you want, but you can’t burst into any discussion and derail it.

    So in a supreme effort of patience, instead of rising to your baiting, I really want to ask what you’re doing here? Almost everyone here is trying to come at this with a feeling of examination and discourse. It doesn’t seem that you want to do that. It seems you want to slam people into your view of what’s right with the force of your passion rather than letting them reach that place on their own. That’s fine I guess. But nobody here seems to be asking for that, and I’m pretty sure you will get exactly nowhere with this audience. If you are just looking for a platform to vent your anger (understandable anger though it be), I would ask, sweetly, that you do it somewhere else. One thing I think, which maybe I didn’t make too clear, is that I think most of the time, true ignorance of a subject should be met with patient discourse. People asked me to write this because they were open to learning more, but wanted to increase their understanding. These people don’t need to be yelled at. I hate to shut down honest discussion, but that’s not what you’re doing and I don’t mind banning you. If Bob showed and still had an attitude of conflict rather than discussion, I would ban him too. But he chose to take his anger elsewhere.

  48. @marco: my comment specifically related to falsifiability. The claim of @garann’s I challenged may have some evidence to back it but this is a far cry from “fact”, and calling it such is incorrect and disingenuous.

    I’m personally skeptical of any of these correlation claims, but that may be because I’m more used to hearing them from Jack Thompson types about violent video games, or Rick Santorum types about porn. In this case I’m much more inclined to believe it — especially because it doesn’t come packaged with the baggage of an agenda. But all that’s beside my point — I was just trying to point out that people notoriously difficult to study, and even their behaviors even harder to generalize into facts. Let’s be a little more careful when dropping the “f” word.

  49. @deathandfood I don’t feel guilty, and I resent any attempt to make me feel guilty for something I don’t do. I never said that I didn’t have privilege. Comparing my stance with that of Nazi Germany shows how extreme your stance is.

    Tell me, are all Muslims responsible for ensuring that some of them don’t fly planes into buildings and blow up supermarkets? Are all black people responsible for ensuring that none of them sell drugs and carjack people. No, that is fucking ludicrous. The people responsible are the people committing the act and nobody else.

  50. Great article, Marco. Thanks for taking the time to write it! I’ve sent it along to a couple guy friends (including my boyfriend) since it describes the feelings I’ve had difficulty putting into words.

    I’m an IT PM not really interested in being the only girl in the IT department ever again.

  51. @bob loblaw: actually, in the US, Muslims report more Muslim extremists than any other group.

    Refusing to enable by inaction is not the same as taking responsibility for an act.

    Lets say a coworker of mine makes a derogatory comment about Mexicans. I am not Mexican. I am not responsible for the comment. I am responsible for how I react to it. If I choose to do nothing, then I am accepting the environment created by the racist remark and enabling racism by my inaction.

    To generalize, I did not kill Trayvon Martin. I am not responsible for his murder. I am responsible for how I react to the event, and for how I respond to the request for support in their response by members of my community. This is why I attended a rally yesterday. Not attending would be enabling and endorsing racism with my inaction.

    “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” — Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

  52. I got here through an acquaintance’s FB post. I hate FB (most of the time), but I love it because some of my male friends post incredibly intelligent links about prevailing issues such as the ones you’ve written about. I love that you even attempted to explain privilege, which is a more difficult topic to explain. I’ve tried, but most men just do not get it.

    I was also extremely happy to see that you use the same theme as I do on my blog. GREAT MINDS THINK ALIKE!

    Anyway, when I want my male friends to “get it” and understand, I usually link them to this post: http://www.europrofem.org/audio/ep_kimmel/kimmel.htm (you should read it – it reads very much like yours, except he is a white guy), but now I’m going to link them to this blog as well.

    I was seriously going to try to read all the comments, but I’m far too jittery and excited to. I’ll get to that later.

    About slut-shaming. I guess I can see why it’s hard for men to get this. Within the context of gender equality – there are many things that work against it that do not help solve the issue, worsening it even. It makes it difficult when people who are less aware of sexism, make decisions to consciously be objectified. So while men should be more aware of the gender equality, it goes for the women who aren’t enlightened enough about it.

    Slut-shaming in essence is when a woman (or man) attacks [another] woman for being sexual. Women should avoid (actually, shouldn’t at all be) name-calling and disrespecting each other altogether for the choices they’ve made. This is part of the reason why some women don’t get sexism either, because all their lives, they’ve lived in a sexist society that when it comes to other women, they’re going to see them as “competition” instead of a fellow woman part of the struggle. Instead of seeing one another’s unequal position compared to a man -in whatever industry or situation – a lot of women, are pitted against one another to be in competition for her one true, prince charming. One of my mentors on women’s issues, is my college professor, who pointed out that, ultimately, the problem in the larger picture is, social inequality and injustice. Whether or not women themselves want to be a porn star or be a sexual object, is her choice. May not help the issue at the moment, because it kind of furthers sexual objectification, but better still, that it’s her choice and not a man’s, who bought her and forced into it.

  53. Pingback: Prepping for April Fool’s Day linkspam | Geek Feminism Blog

  54. Pingback: » Many Links for a Friday Team Valkyrie FTW - Critically Thinking about Geek Culture

  55. “Because if I was in a room full of women looking at me, it might be kind of cool, you say. Now you’ve hit on the other important point about this sexism thing. Most men don’t understand that most women are not like them. Most women don’t get off on being the object of sexual desire to strange men.”

    No no – you don’t understand. The reason men say this is because when you ask them to picture being hit on by a room full of lusty women, they picture being gaped at by a room full of beautiful supermodels whom THEY are attracted to – not a room full of women who are attracted TO THEM.
    When you ask a woman to picture a room full of men staring at them, they (realistically) picture a room full of that skeezy, balding 50 year old man who sexually harassed them on the bus (and that’s not even mentioning the different expectations men have in their daily lives about safety).

  56. It’s a very good article, thank you for doing this analysis.

    A very good illustration to the privileged talk could be seen here:
    (second poster). For the record, the white guy I asked to read it, didn’t know what the “glass ceiling” meant and didn’t see anything wrong with this post, until I explained.

    As for sexual objectification, I think, many people missed the point with Geeklist. They advertise a service for geeks, irregardless of gender. And yet, one of the genders is reduced to being a sexual object for the other one. The message is, we (men) see you (women) in the tech community as trophies to satisfy our sexual desires. If to dig for another example, look at The Social Network movie. All the females in the movie are no more then sexual objects, and it’s how the male characters see them (which is the sad truth!). The offence is not what body parts are shown, but the roles assigned (like, we like blacks, but they should work only in cleaning service). I see no difference between a woman seen as a sexual trophy, and a woman seen as “to cook, wash and please her husband” (which attitude is not completely extinct in tech communities, btw).

    I’m a female geek (how many of the readers took my WordPress nick for a male?). I found the first post of Garann precisely describing the very essence of sexual objectification. Is there something taught or not taught to little boys so later in their life they are not able to see females as human beings? Either a sexual object, or something to ignore. I find too often that women are expected to “prance in their underwear” (i.e. trigger sexual interest, no matter how subtle) in order to be heard. Other then that, they might be expected to look and behave like the guys around (let’s not call them men), and pick on other women.

  57. I realized that some readers might not understand the link I posted, either… It has nothing to do with immigrant workers.

    Pay attention to the use of words: “non-traditional people” and “even white people”. It’s like there is a long line of workers for promotion, white males (naturally!) in front, women and minorities are after because they are “non-traditional”. The front of the line gets promoted, but not the rest, because their jobs are taken by immigrant workers. But wait a minute, *even* some naturally privileged people suffer as their jobs are taken!

  58. Pingback: Sexism in Tech: The Revolution is being Tweeted » Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology

  59. @bob – as another white male, I want to say I’ve got your back. I don’t entirely agree with you, but I’ve been in the same place, having the same arguments, and I know it’s a shitty feeling when it seems like you’re being saddled with something on the basis of your gender or race.

    That said, I do believe in privilege, and I have chosen to live in a way that tries to minimize my complicity in the kinds of racism and sexism the author is describing. I do believe that as a white male, I benefit from privilege. I don’t feel shame about it, and I don’t feel as if it’s a responsibility that was thrust upon me by society. My outlook is a choice I made, and I respect your right to make the same choice – whether you end up in the same place I have or not.

    I think the author has done as good a treatment of the race/gender perspective thing as I ever could, so I won’t waste your time by retreading all that. All I wanted to say to you was the above: basically, that if you’re really intellectually open to considering what’s being said (and I get the sense that you are), please examine the sense you’re having of being shamed or attacked. That’s not intended to be condescending- I’m just saying, I felt *exactly* the same way for YEARS, and it wasn’t until I really sat down and struggled with it for a while that I came to an understanding where I could be comfortable. Comfortable with choosing to take action in a way that felt positive, and not as if I’d been shamed or forced into it. I can’t really describe what that’s like, or how to get there- that’s your own journey. For me it took a lot of patience and humility, which are qualities I’ve always valued but often struggled to practice when I feel I’m under attack. So, again: that’s meant to be a supportive “please examine this because it’s a long, difficult process”, not a “check yourself” kind of thing.

    The only other thing I wanted to say to you is, again: if you’re really intellectually open to having a discussion about this subject, I humbly suggest that you ignore deathandfood, and engage the author. Don’t feed the troll!

    Thanks for reading.

  60. @Tim – while most of the people in this thread are making an effort to have a relatively civil discussion, deathandfood is using a lot of hyperbole, sarcasm, and generally divisive rhetorical tactics. Those are all great, if you just want to feel self-righteous and superior, but in terms of actually having a useful discussion with someone whose opinions differ, all that’s going to accomplish is to derail the conversation and give other trolls a straw man to dismantle.

    So yeah, I understand that in the traditional definition of troll, someone who just instigates for the sake of instigating, it may not be entirely accurate. Close enough for me, though.

    @deathandfood – if you come back to the thread, nothing personal. Just saying… you’re not going to make any converts by comparing them to Hitler. Given that, what are you trying to accomplish by doing so?

  61. White women are the height of privilege – you’ve perhaps heard of ‘women and children’ first? Feminism is simply them wanting power to go along with that privilege. An attractive white women can murder people with impunity. Women, btw, are the majority (51%). You have common cause against a common foe, for awhile, but it is nothing alike. It was on the word of a white woman that black men were lynched.

  62. Pingback: Women & Programming | Inside the Nerdery

  63. I’m certainly not trying to take away from the impact of the article or the situation (well written, and vastly true), however, in my unique circumstance, I have witnessed some damning evidence that is not described/analyzed:

    I am gay. I do not wear this on my sleeve. I would say at least 50% of the interactions I have with women in the workplace include some or all of the following:
    I’ve had project managers that want something that I’ve already said can’t happen literally lean over on my desk and squeeze their chest together while they beg for said item to get done. I’ve had the same situation where they get entirely too close for the same reasons, or even go so far as touch me. I’ve had similar instances where the woman squats down next to me while I am sitting in my chair, obscenely too close to my lap.

    This is sexism on a different level. It is definitely sexual harassment, however, if I had reported it, I would have faced disciplinary recourse–even though I am homosexual. I know this because I consulted an attorney, who told me the likely run-down of the case. Now tell me how that is fair.

    I’m not trying to say this is how it always is, because that is false. However, I do think there are quite a few women out there still using the difference between how men and women operate to their advantage. Its hard to find fault for this situation solely in men, when there is a constant perpetuation (whether conscious or not) by women. One could certainly argue that such tactics are a coping mechanism, but its not a one-way road.

  64. @marco,

    you seem like a reasonable guy who can take opposing viewpoints, so I’ll bite in case it can help you and others for what it’s worth. Like your post, this will be a long one, so take it for what it’s worth, and good luck getting through it if you want. Be forewarned – it takes some open mind to stomach what you are about to read, since these are extremely unpopular thoughts in today’s society.

    Note the word “you” implies the “general you” unless the context specifically indicates otherwise.

    Let me be very blunt here – being a victim doesn’t help oneself.

    **** EXISTENCE ****

    Does racism and sexism exists? Yes absolutely. You should assume they will never go away, and operate as if they are always part of the equation even when not.

    The question isn’t whether it exists, why it exists, or how can we make it go away. The question is, how are you going to survive and prosper under these conditions?

    Being a victim doesn’t do it.

    There is a reason why prominently successful women/minority don’t talk a lot about either issues unless they make their money being professional victims and promote victimhoods/hates. Anyone who does so creates their own glass ceilings.

    You might say “that doesn’t make it right”. Sure, but while you might not like the fact that jumping off the bridge will make you fall to your death, complaining about it won’t change how gravity operates.

    See, gravity is a natural law that can be studied and observed. If you want to jump off a bridge safely – you should either be strapped to a bungee, have a parachute, or a glider. I.e. you should know how the natural laws operate in order to conquer the issues.

    Complaining about them isn’t one of those saving devices.

    When you are a minority or the weaker class, your operating environment has been determined and programmed against you. You can rail all you want against that – it’s simply beyond your power to change.

    Honestly, whites (I’m not one if that matters to you) are quite reasonable in able to take criticisms and change. I promise you it’s worse elsewhere.

    **** EMOTIONS ****

    Institutional memory exists, of course, and I won’t downplay the hardships of blacks at the hands of whites during the slavery years. But if you want to carry those baggages with you all the time, you will be the one weighing down by them, not the perpetrators or their descendents.

    They will just see you being angry and avoid you, and hence you seal your own fate.

    This is the reason why whenever I see an article like this, I am extremely troubled by it, because it not only help no one, it actually riles up emotions in people and put themselves in worse positions. This particular article is mild comparing to many others, but zero of these articles I see actually offer suggestions on how one can survive and prosper under these conditions. They are all emotional pieces, even when written as logical as possible.

    You see, the world doesn’t run on emotions. Yes, the world needs emotions, but only the positive kind. Negative emotions drive people away. You talk about the angry black people phenomenon, so obviously you are well aware of that being a problem.

    That’s a bigger problem than racism or sexism today, to be blunt. Because that’s what’s limiting you these days. Not racism or sexism.

    Here’s a natural law – **if you insist on being different, you will be treated differently**.

    It doesn’t matter whether you think it’s right, whether you are gravely offended by it, it is just how the world operates. Screaming at it is as stupid as screaming at software having bugs, ocean have tides, and falling rocks can kill people. It won’t change a damn thing.

    And I’m sorry that you are taught to be “wary” of police officers. I was taught to be “respectful” of police officers. I can tell you that saves many from unnecessary agony.

    **** PATRIARCHY ****

    Now, let’s talk about sexism, since that’s what this article is about in the first place.

    There are some parallels between sexism and racism, but the parallels pretty much stop at both parties “feeling” oppressed.

    Contrary to popular belief, women were never subjected to oppression in the way blacks had, beyond the fact that males are stronger and more violent (most to each other).

    Gender roles are natural evolutions of division of labor. Unlike today where everyone sits in a cubicle getting fat, “work” before the modern times are all hard physical labors, tasks much better suited for men.

    Obviously, women are the ones giving births, and unlike the modern times, giving birth was quite dangerous before – a much larger percentage of women die from birth in the past, lack of nutrition didn’t help, and infections and other things weren’t easy to deal with as well.

    The above made women dependent on men. This occurs even in matriarchal societies, the wild fantasies of feminists notwithstanding.

    Division of labor is the reason why we are so successful today. People who are great at computers work on computers, people who are great at cooking make food, and we trade with each other. Without division of labor, our society won’t get anywhere near where we are today.

    That includes inventing life-saving medicine technology for women, by the way, which are also created by men.

    Division of labor is also the reason why almost all societies are patriarchal. Matriarchal societies simply don’t have a chance if they came in contact with a patriarchal one – they get demolished.

    Many feminists have this fantasy that if men weren’t “oppressive” to women, women could have also invented all these things. This is a flat impossibility until the modern times. We will see what happens going forward now jobs are no longer back breaking.

    And I promise you, women back then don’t feel oppressed. It’s a joke to think that only the women today are strong enough to stand up to men. What do you think a Spartan woman would do if she feels oppressed? Cry and complain to her mommy? You think if women are oppressed back then, they wouldn’t start some sort of feminism?

    Basically, all the oppression theories are fantasies created by feminists.

    Why do so many people buy up that theory? Just like so many people buying up its father theory, Marxism. People like to feel themselves as victims and see struggles. It emotionalizes and galvanizes people, especially people who love emotions.

    **** SEXISM ****

    From young, girls are taught that their emotions are important. When a girl cries, everyone drops what they do to help. A boy? It’s expected that the boy learns to help himself as soon as he has weened off mother’s milk.

    There is a reason why boys are taught emotions are not important – they have to face the harshness of society, and they need to be able to survive on their own. If they cry, they are quickly abused until they stop crying.

    Girls are never taught that. Every girls emotions are important to be nurtured.

    As stated above, the world doesn’t run on negative emotions. A girl who is always positive will go far, very far indeed, and much faster than a guy can manage these days. A girl of negative emotions? The world will reflect back to her just the way she expects.

    The real sexism is in teaching girls their emotions are important.

    It’s an universal phenomenon that whenever boys are playing a game, if a girl wants to join, she wants to change the rules to suit her.

    This occurs on the playground when they are young, and occurs at workplace when they enter into the workforce. Any HR rules regarding sex-issues are all written with the goal to make it as comfortable as possible for women.

    Again, the world doesn’t run on emotions. But when a woman is around, the experiences of men has been that women want the world to suit them, not the other way around.

    Because women are that important.

    Now, I’m not here to argue women are unimportant, and most men think women are important. But guess what, if you are important enough to cause rules to shift, you are someone that people don’t necessarily become buddy with.

    Who wants to become friends of a king or a queen? Or in today’s setting, their bosses?

    To be blunt, women bring this on themselves on their insistence to be different.

    Yes, men will be men, just like women will be women. Let me know when a woman are comfortable enough with herself to take me to strip clubs, and I will make that woman my inner circle, faster than I’ll make a man one.

    Women hate being ogled. I get that. Women hate not being taken seriously, I get that too. Having them bothering you doesn’t help you, nor would it change anyone else. Letting them bothering you is the same as again, yelling at gravity pulling you down. Learning to overcome them without alienating people is the only way forward.

    The saying of “women marrying men hoping they change but they don’t” is right on. Expecting the world to change to your liking is the type of fantasy that can only exists with pampered person who don’t realize their privilege – the rest of us have that rueful awakening much younger.

    The easiest way for women to succeed is, again, be one of the boys, because boys know how the world works, and it’s not to project negative emotions. Learn it from Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer, who are clearly the model of success to be emulated, not from professional victims like Anita Sarkeesian who make their money by making you believe you are a victim. Women have much more power than that if they are willing to tap into it.

    Lastly – success only come from overcoming obstacles. We all have different types of obstacles, whether we like it or not. But guess what, sexism didn’t stop Amelia Earhart achieving what she wanted, because she decided what she wanted to do, obstacle be damned. A fragile flower who are bogged down by minutia won’t be Amelia Earhart no matter how much she wants us to hear her roar.

    Be an Amelia Earhart, not a fragile flower.

  65. Hi Miko. I thought a long time about whether to let this comment stand or delete it. I do listen to input from different perspectives. I read this entire thing. And I’m sorry to say it was a waste of my time.

    I’m afraid this reply won’t be very constructive. I had to chose whether to waste further time dismantling your false logic, and I had to take into account whether it would make any difference to you or anyone reading. I don’t think it will. In my experience, it’s very difficult to educate men who think like you do.

    I’ll admit it also annoys me that you would come and write a small novel in my blog comments but not say anything new or original. Men have been making this argument that their long history of sexism is somehow the natural order of things since the beginning of time. It’s not revelatory, it’s not some profound wisdom that people haven’t heard, it’s boring. The feminist/womanist movement grew in direct opposition to all the nonsense you spouted above. There is a ton of literature that debunks and rejects every single point you are poorly trying to make. The least you can do is educate yourself on the system you’re up against, so you can sound more cogent and have an actual chance of convincing anyone.

    The question remains of whether I let your comment stay up. I think I will. Not because I feel compelled to represent multiple viewpoints here. This is my blog and I choose what goes here. But I’ll leave it because I’m no longer afraid of letting people read tripe like this. You’re losing. We WILL create a world where the mentality of men like you is a minority and women get to exist as themselves without fear. You can’t stop it. Stay mad bro. Thanks for dropping by.

  66. Pingback: Quick hit: A good example of how to handle trolls | Geek Feminism Blog

  67. Pingback: Error 404 – Your Gender Bias Is Showing – Wit & Fancy

  68. Pingback: Around the Margin – Trayvon Martin | acrossthemargin

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s