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Now all shouty

Another piece on women in tech fields. The takeaway:

It was always the ones that said they didn’t see gender or color who did the most damage. “They’re just words,” they would say, “Why do you let them hurt you?” And with that, my pain was made as invisible as me. “They’re just words.” Indeed, just the verbal incantations of power, like law and code and everything else that made the world. I decided to leave tech for words.

But now I’m all shouty. Now people are angry at me because I have a stage, and they can’t make me invisible and ignore me, because the truth is you can’t ignore words, and I have the words. So now they really hate me. The others, the majority, sit uncomfortably with the conflict. No one is quite sure what to do, they want things to be abstractly better, but they don’t want anyone to be loudly upset, either. One side is considerably louder than all the others.

That “just words” thing is so ridiculous. People who say that – how do they think we got here? We humans? Do they think language is just incidental? A minor ornament that makes no difference to anything?

And I love the second para, because it applies to so many of us, us shouty women, us women who are all shouty. We have a stage, so now they really hate us – but it doesn’t do them any good because they can’t make people stop reading us or listening to us. They try and try and try but it just doesn’t work.

H/t Chris Lawson

Comments

  1. johnthedrunkard says

    This primary reaction–to deny or normalize evil. It is absolutely everywhere. Islam isn’t violent, priests are men of god, Jerry Sandusky is a philanthropist, X was just some guy talking in the elevator.

    ‘Just words’ is a whole category of denial, worth a passle of essays.

  2. Onamission5 says

    Something I have never quite understood– if words are just words and don’t have any power, if everyone is entitled to their opinion and opinions have no power, then why are they so threatened by us using our words and expressing our opinions?

    Hmmmm?

  3. fastlane says

    My response to anyone who says they’re ‘just words':

    “You’re just a douchebag.”

    Then just kinda sit back and watch their reaction. Sometimes, they get it, but most times, it flies right over their pointy little heads as they go into outrage mode…..

  4. says

    The old “Sticks and stones….” ditty may be good enough advice on the initial strategy for handling playground taunts, but it really does run out of steam at some point. Words are part of what defines the social atmosphere we must all breath; if enough of them are toxic then you are forced to go elsewhere to find fresh air.

  5. says

    Is there more of this around recently? I mean more women talking out about it? I hope so as it seems really positive but it could just be because I’ve started reading more of the feminist focussed blogs… Someone pointed me to Stoyas view of sexual harrassment on her tumblr blog and she said…

    It seems like women have been sharing their experiences with sexual harassment all over the place in the past few weeks. That’s what prompted me to share mine.

    Very good read – especially the view that being an adult entertainer in a porn conference (What do you call them? Jamboree?) is less demeaning than walking down the street as an anonymous woman!
    http://stoya.tumblr.com/post/30944698948/not-cool-things-to-do-bro-part-1
    http://stoya.tumblr.com/post/30981186073/not-cool-things-to-do-bro-part-2

  6. Scrutationary Archivist says

    Onamission5 @2

    I think the fear is that those words and opinions will be heard, listened to, and heeded.

    Which, of course, is why words aren’t “just words”. They are connected to standards, expectations, behaviors, and actions. Words can be used to reinforce social systems, or to change them.

  7. mnb0 says

    As I have been bullied as a child I know what I’m talking about. Sometimes “it’s just words” works indeed. Sometimes it doesn’t. Then you have to fight back.

  8. Beatrice says

    It might be “just words” the first time. And the second. Depends on the person, for someone it might be “just words” for a very long time. But at some point it’s all going to pile up and a word will be enough to break you.

    Now that the author has become shouty, if the same person who’s told her that she shouldn’t get upset because those are “just words” is now angry at her for being shouty; I hope she tells them that they shouldn’t be angry, after all… it’s “just words”.

  9. Aratina Cage says

    Right on! Words convey thoughts. They let other people know what you are thinking, but before we get to that point, we have to agree to a large extent on what specific words mean.

    That is the part that many of the slimepitters deny; they would try to tell us to redefine the f-word (faggot), for instance, so that it has no power over us. I find that notion wrong on its face because even if I redefined such a word when it was thrown at me, the person saying it as a put down has not redefined it and is still going by the generally agreed upon meaning and bringing all the garbage along that comes with uttering that word in that way.

    It’s not the words that have the power, it’s the speaker or writer of the words, but words can do harm. We wouldn’t even have insults and slurs if you could just choose to redefine them and render the utterer or author into the equivalent of a sputtering chimp.

  10. Stacy says

    @fastlane #3

    My response to anyone who says they’re ‘just words’:

    “You’re just a douchebag.”

    Oh, I am so going to use that. The last time somebody threw “just words” at me he was defending the “just words” of a mutual acquaintance who had said “they have sex, he never calls her again, that’s rape.”

    Moments after the “just words” defense, he got defensively upset because he thought I was about to call him a misogynist.

    (Yes, these men are both “skeptics.”)

  11. jose says

    “the majority sit uncomfortably with the conflict. No one is quite sure what to do, they want things to be abstractly better, but they don’t want anyone to be loudly upset, either.”

    Crawling into evopsych now, but my god, how strikingly similar it sounds to what happens in a group of chimps and one is challenging the few in charge (“alphas” often have like an “honor guard” of close allies). They will ignore the challenge, and if it persist, they will start getting uncomfortable and try harder to ignore the displays. They will get increasingly closer, groom one another with more dedication, just refusing to acknowledge anything is happening at all. If the threat doesn’t go away and the tension is too much to ignore, a pandemonium of screams will break loose.

    “Now people are angry at me because I have a stage, and they can’t make me invisible and ignore me”

    Again, striking.

    Thankfully we have our thoughts and our language to sort things out in a civilized way… when all parties want to.

  12. fwtbc says

    oolon @ #7

    From your comment:

    It seems like women have been sharing their experiences with sexual harassment all over the place in the past few weeks. That’s what prompted me to share mine.

    This is definitely true. I’m seeing it in various places, too. The latest excellent post of this nature I’ve seen was by Courtney Stanton (aka kirbybits) @ Super Opinionated

    http://superopinionated.com/2012/09/17/let-this-be-a-lesson/

    Some may remember her for writing a post about why she wasn’t going to attend or speak at PAX, due to Penny Arcade’s dismissive response to the Dickwolves criticism. Not sure if her posts on that are still around, that was when her blog was called “here is a thing”.

  13. dirigible. says

    “he got defensively upset because he thought I was about to call him a misogynist”

    Thought crime!!1

  14. Pteryxx says

    Following up on fwtbc’s excellent link:

    The latest excellent post of this nature I’ve seen was by Courtney Stanton (aka kirbybits) @ Super Opinionated

    http://superopinionated.com/2012/09/17/let-this-be-a-lesson/

    It not only dissects exactly what went wrong to make an unnamed conference (called EveryConf by the author) an unwelcoming experience, but lays out the responsibility of organizers and bystanders:

    The EveryConf organizer, who created an event full of juvenile sexual jokes to help people “connect”, knowingly invited a rape survivor to said event, and then let someone tell three minutes of detailed, vulgar, descriptive jokes about being raped by a man without doing anything about it, sought me out and told me he was really glad I said something. “I felt so uncomfortable when he was doing that, it was not okay at all”, said the man who invited everyone to EveryConf, was its emcee, and undoubtedly had the most authority of anyone in the room to define and enforce the boundaries of what was or was not acceptable behavior at his event.

    This is when I knew I would never be coming back to EveryConf, and that I’d be privately warning away anyone I knew and liked from attending.

  15. sc_8ddc3059896b695eda1d8d6c6db10881 says

    For some reason I just can’t help but think of this recurring conversation:

    “Oh please it’s just a few threats of rape and death and a handful of misogynist slurs ON THE INTERNET, for Pete’s sake! Grow a thicker skin!”

    “That’s stupid. Misogyny is bad and we should fight it.”

    “Oh crap what a BULLY! Why do you feminists keep bullying me? Don’t you know how bad bullying is?!?!”

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