Women In Tech

Forgive me, for this post is going to be really discombobulated and probably piss you off.. 

Women in tech. I really, really, really hate that phrase. Yes, I’m a woman. Yes, I think it’s important for anyone and everyone to be able to do what they want to do without having to worry about been oogled all the the time. And avoiding the “male gaze” as Aral Balkan likes to put it. But I hate that phrase. And I hate what it stands for.

A little background. In college, although I ended up with a BFA, I did pursue a minor in psychology. Psychology is one of my many hobbies, as I love studying how and why people think the way they do. Of course, you can’t miss “women’s studies” when working in psych. I bet you guessed it: I hated that class too.

I’m not a woman hater. I don’t think women should stand behind men, have their place, make babies, shut up and dress pretty all the time. I’m the anti “perfect women”. Yes I knit and love to cook and dress pretty. But I’m also an entrepreneur, a free thinker, a love of racing cars and mechanical things. A lover of science, computers, and anything geeky. That’s “man stuff”.

No More Women In Tech Please.

My issue with the whole “women in tech” thing is that it makes the divisions between men and women even greater, and thus harms what we’re trying to do – which is become equals. It’s similar to how I feel about race issues when I lived back in the states. Martin Luther King, Jr and others fought to become equal with white people and to not be segregated based on his race. It often makes me wonder how he’d feel if he could see how things are today – where black people purposefully segregate themselves into their own churches, their own parades, their own holidays. How would he feel? (In case you were wondering, I’ve had this same discussion with several older generation black people who seem to feel the same way  – but that’s another topic for another blog)

Similarly, how would the feminists of the previous centuries feel if they could see the tech industry? Would they be proud to see that we’re segregating ourselves into “women’s clubs”? That we’re demanding our own events because we’re scared of the men? Why should there be men’s events and women’s events? I somehow feel that Susan B Anthony would be shaking her head in anger right now. She doesn’t want “separate but equal” tech events.

I’ve been in this industry a long, long time – before there even was “an industry”. While I have been told an annoyingly amount of times that “I’m a pretty girl” or “I didn’t know women could code” or etc etc etc, I haven’t felt that anyone was actually trying to stop me from doing what I’m doing. Most of the old IT men who might’ve hated on women have already been replaced by the younger crowd. Heck, I’m only 26 and can tell that you free thinking youngins are already pushing me out the door.

Not once, in the 12+ years I’ve been here has anyone been nasty to me because I’m a female. I have seen it happen to others though, like Sarah Parmenter. Unfortunately this really does happen, and it really is sickening. However, it happens everywhere, no matter what industry you’re in. And it’s the very, very small minority who do it. We have a fantastic sense of self policing here, who tend to defend the weak and attack the jerks anyways, so we’re an army against that one asshole.

But just because there’s a few turds in this industry doesn’t mean we have a crisis. We don’t need to set up groups and events to entice women. Women will come. The tech industry is mild when you think of others. What do you think women faced when they wanted to break into the most manliest of industries – the military? How much hate and sexism do you think was there? (For an idea, watch the awesome movie, G.I. Jane, based on a true story). Yet, women came, they saw, they conquered. Women didn’t have special military events. They had to prove they were equal in every way and they fought tooth and nail to stand by men’s side in the military. What would they have thought if someone tried to set up a women’s military?

We women are a tough lot. We’ll do what we have to do to get what we want. And if one is deterred by the rare asshole in this industry, well I can go ahead and tell you that they weren’t cut out to be a developer or a designer anyways. Have you ever been to a design critique or dealt with angry clients? I would welcome a boob joke or an offhand sexist comment instead. This industry is hell no matter what sex you are and you have to have a thick skin or you won’t make it.

Insert Boob Joke Here

The problem with dealing with women in tech, is that there is so much to cover. In moving to Aral’s blog post about dealing with sexism and the male gaze – I agree with him in some aspects, but not completely.

I hate the idea of PC (political correctness for those of you who aren’t politically minded). I hate that we can’t laugh at ourselves and make jokes without the fear of offending someone. Let me tell you, coming from someone who tends to speak her mind about everything, you’ll offend someone no matter what you say. Do we really want to become a vanilla society of monodromes because we’re afraid if we reference things like “real men”, “boobs” or “blow jobs” that someone will be hurt (let’s add those to the thousands of other words we’re not “allowed” to say)?

No, it’s never okay to turn to a female speaker and make an innuendo about her pleasuring the crowd (see Aral’s post again). That’s never right. That singles one person out and humiliates them. But making a joke about a real men being X, or about a general group? Why can’t we learn to laugh again?

I think the issue is that there’s a fine line to walk between being funny and hurting someone. How do we do it?

Being into hobbies that were traditionally “guy’s stuff” meant that I grew up with having guy friends. I didn’t have a lot of women as friends, so maybe that’s why I have a thicker skin that others. I’ve heard every sexist and boob joke there is. And I can laugh it off. Why? Because I can laugh and hurl a joke right back at them with equalness (not a word, I know). I don’t get all huffy every time I hear a blonde joke or a Jew joke (I love you, South Park), so why would I get upset at hearing a joke against women? Life is too short to get offended at everything and people need to start relaxing and start laughing more. Perhaps we wouldn’t be fighting so much if we could.

Ok, Ok, Keep Your Panties On

After all of my grumblings, what solution am I proposing? None.

I just know that if I hear the phrase “Women In Tech” one more time I’m going to barf. It’s offensive…