Dodging garbage fires

Trigger warning: harassment, non consensual sex, porn, and all other sorts of gross things I have dealt with.

You might have heard about “the Google guy“. I won’t rehash it again. Instead, I want to focus on the questions that people ask me: “have you seen that?” and “how come I’m not outraged?”

Short answer: because I’ve been seeing this, in one way or another, since I was in kindergarten and I’m very, extremely, incredibly tired.

Examples:

  • I’m in kindergarten. I want to climb trees, play football and explore the playground. A mean bully boy surrounded by its group of coward groupies declares I can’t, because I’m a girl, and also because I am wearing a dress.
  • I’m in primary school and I want to play with construction games. I am told that is what boys would do. Do I not want to play with Barbie?
  • Later I want to attend computer classes after school. I am told that is something boys would do.
  • In secondary school, I want to enter the drawing contest in my school. I am told nope, girls can’t enter the drawing contest, they have to do aerobic or be cheerleaders during the (male) football match.
  • I’ve been accepted at uni to study Computer Science, I proudly tell one of my class mates. He looks at me with a troubled face and asks/declares “that isn’t something women would study, is it?”
  • I’m at one of the practice labs in the uni, and a male teacher makes a sexist comment about women being really good at cleaning up, when I say I’m tidying up our assignment before submitting it.
  • Later, the mentor where I’m interning describes in a very nonchalant and clinical way his proposition: that I allow him to perform some sexual acts on me, so he could decide if he really likes his girlfriend enough to go live with her forever. In parallel, one of my intern colleagues declares he’s in love with me and gets upset that I refuse him and his gifts. I quit, because jesus freaking christ, I just want to build videogames and my curriculum, not have sex with my coworkers.
  • Elsewhere, we built a website, then I’m told that it’s best if we don’t say that a woman built it, because then people would try really hard to hack it.
  • I’m at a demoscene party and I’m surrounded by men watching porn. I’m confused because a demoscene party is meant to be a computer event and it’s supposed to be about technical excellence, so… why are they watching this here? What is wrong with people?
  • At another demoscene party a guy asks me if I’m “a real demoscener”. I am…
    • releasing a demo which I coded myself with my own scripting system based in Lua and C++,
    • plus a song,
    • and I’m being interviewed and joining a panel or two (I don’t even remember),
    • and also teaching a seminar
    • … and I still need to prove myself somehow. Do I need to dress like Trinity from the Matrix?
  • On my first startup I’m the only woman developer out of 8 developers, and I accidentally get cc:ed on an email in which the CTO refers to me as “the girl in the office”, and wonders if I know any programming language.
  • On the first day of another job, I’m introduced to one coworker, who asks what I’m going to do there. His reply: “Oh. I didn’t think women could program”. Perhaps not ironically, he was terrible at programming. Also at being human.
  • In conferences, meetups, and similar gatherings, I’m warned when technical discussions are happening, just in case I want to refill my drink or retouch my nail polish, I guess.
  • In another startup, the CTO tells me “in confidence” that the VC of the startup where I work is “slightly against women in tech” and so was “slightly reluctant” to me being hired, but he “is fine now”. I “slightly wonder” if I need to give him a medal or send flowers in appreciation.
  • Someone apologised, in retrospect and “in confidence”, for assuming I was a man when they read my CV.
  • A very well known speaker told me people were very interested in seeing me speak… because “I am a very good woman speaker”. Not because I have interesting things to say, it seems.
  • At the after party at a conference where I spoke, a stranger holds me by the waist, then gets very upset that I immediately free myself from his embrace and ask him what the heck is he doing. Later, another guy tries really hard to hook up with me, despite my absolute lack of interest and continuous “no” and refusals. His colleagues assume that he’s going to be successful anyway, and ask him whether they should just leave already, since this is pretty much “a done deal”. I am the one who leaves in a whim because I’m done with all this shit; I just wanted to enjoy a drink and talk to interesting people, not be harassed by randos.
  • And the list goes on, and
  • on, and
  • on, and
  • on forever

And so it looks like I have ‘toughened up’, but not really, because what happens is that you develop this kind of automatic system that detects garbage from a distance, and when I see a barrel of garbage in flames like all these guys rolling my way, I just dodge it as fast as I possibly can, because if you get too close you’re going to get burnt out. There’s no extinguisher for this kind of fires; the only solution is to let them consume themselves to ashes.

But it is tiring. I am expending all this energy that men do not have to expend, and that’s simply in order to exist and do my job without being run over by somebody else’s prejudices or taken advantage of.

I would prefer if I could focus on being my authentic, efficient and greatly productive me.

Because the truth is that I’m actually freaking good at all those things I’m told I can’t or mustn’t do. I’m great at climbing, and at drawing, and playing with construction sets, and telling weirdos to get lost (I’m very good at this), and developing software and systems (I’m even better at this), and fixing and building stuff.

And it’s not only that I’m good, but that I’m actually way better than those self-appointed gurus of biology and gender studies who diagonally read a Wikipedia article once and then decided to go around “weighing in” unasked and telling people what they can or cannot do.

And so are all my friends who have had to put up with all this bullshit already, and are freaking good at their jobs… if only you would let them do them!

Many, who are not as stubborn as I am, have left towards fields in which they are treated like human beings, not sexual accessories, and aren’t questioned every single day. Even I consider leaving from time to time.

And that’s why we’re not “reacting” to this. Because we’re tired of “reacting”.

That said, if the rest of people wanted to “act”, instead of expecting the minorities to “react” as if it were a live entertainment show, it would be appreciated. Tell them they’re being sexist. Tell them they are dressing up facts made out of thin air as science, to support their own discriminatory narrative. Or just tell them to STFU and grow up. It would be nice to not to have to do it ourselves, just the once.

Mulder, this is the field in which I grow my fucks. You will note that it is barren.
Mulder, this is the field in which I grow my f****. You will note that it is barren.