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The timing of everything was carefully executed

What it’s like to be a woman in The Industry. What industry? It almost doesn’t matter, does it. This one is the tech industry.

This week – someone decided to upload fake porn pictures of me to the internet – when I say fake I don’t mean my head stuck on someone’s body, but lookalikes or in some cases, just blonde girls with blue eyes and terrible taste in underwear. I digress. This is someone with far too much time on their hands and someone with a definite grudge. I’ve taught myself over the years to take the rough with the smooth and develop a thick skin, I’ve been free of online trouble for a while and rightly or wrongly, I was kind of expecting my run of luck to end. To say it caught me off guard, would be a lie, but to see how low someone would stoop, did. However, it’s amazing how resilient and detached you can be when you know you’ve been that boring your entire life that you’ve never taken nude pictures of yourself.

The interesting thing about what this individual did was show themselves as wanting to try and damage my professional integrity with blatant trolling. It all started a week ago from the date of writing this. I started to receive emails from creepy guys and eventually traced back to a site that various pictures had been posted to. The pictures were uploaded alongside my personal email address, (old) hometown and a screenshot of my Twitter account. There was also an open forum for comments at the bottom, which I’m sure you can imagine the type of things posted there.

Sarah Parmenter wrote that far in August, then shelved the post. Now she continues:

The timing of everything was carefully executed, they knew I was speaking at one of our industry’s best known conferences, ‘An Event Apart’ – they started to try and spam the feed ‘A Feed Apart’ on the day of my talk – they then tried, unsuccessfully, to post to the ‘An Event Apart’ Facebook feed during my talk, they set up a fake Twitter account and tried to at-reply my employers for that conference as well as high-profile twitter users I was associated with, to ensure they knew about the pictures and their existence.

It all sounds so familiar, doesn’t it. She still doesn’t know who did it.

There’s many questions around why there aren’t more females speaking in this industry. I can tell you why, they are scared. Everytime I jump on stage, I get comments, either about the way I look, or the fact that I’m the female, the token, the one they have to sit through in order for the males to come back on again. One conference, I even had a guy tweet something derogatory about me not 30 seconds into my talk, only for me to bring up the point he had berated me for not bringing up, not a minute later – which caused him to have to apologise to my face after public backlash. I’ve had one guy come up to me in a bar and say (after explaining he didn’t like my talk)… “no offence, I just don’t relate to girls speaking about the industry at all, I learn better from guys”. I could write a book on inappropriate things that have been said to me at conferences about girls in the industry so much so, it’s become a running joke with fellow speakers. I know other girls who could also chip in a fair few chapters but, underneath the humour sometimes found in these situations, lies a very real problem.

It’s no great secret that girls are a minority in this industry, you only have to look at the queues for the toilets at any conference, however, it’s forgotten that it’s not about female speakers, it’s about finding female speakers who have enough of a thick skin to want to stand up infront of an audience of twitter-trigger-happy males and public speak. That’s an entirely different kettle of fish. Then ontop – when you finally feel comfortable with speaking, you get put into a big black pot and tarnished with the label “same old face”. This happened to me on my third ever speaking engagement, third? I was tarnished as a “same old face”. Since then it’s become water off a ducks back – I’m not going to let a label stop me from developing and growing my speaking skills, I’m by no means perfect and still have a lot to learn. We should be encouraging anyone who shows an aptitude or love for sharing their knowledge with the community.

Among other things – many, many other things – this is one huge reason it’s such a mistake ever to claim that the reason there are so few women in ___________ is because “it’s more of a guy thing.” It’s a colossal, gigantic, monumental mistake ever to take the absence of women as the outcome of pure uninfluenced inclination. Women are being systematically deliberately forcibly kept out, in a way far more conspiratorial and intentional than I would ever have imagined possible until it started happening to me and to friends of mine and to women like Sarah Parmenter and Helen Lewis and Mary Beard and Anita Sarkeesian and is that enough name to be going on with for now?

Don’t you ever, ever assume that my non-presence in a place means that I’d rather go out for ice cream that day. Never lose sight of the very real possibility that “I” (by “I” I mean all of us) was bullied out, on purpose. Never look at a sea of male faces and assume that all the female ones are contentedly at home making soup.

Via PZ.

Comments

  1. athyco says

    Sarah Parmenter:

    The interesting thing about what this individual did was show themselves as wanting to try and damage my professional integrity with blatant trolling. It all started a week ago from the date of writing this. I started to receive emails from creepy guys and eventually traced back to a site that various pictures had been posted to.

    The malice at the center–the site traced back to–gives cover to the creepy guys who don’t have the personal impetus to begin it but will share in it. The self-initiation rite is ridiculously easy–jump in for the gotcha or the lulz. Most on the periphery, if they’re identified and get too much pushback, distance with the ridiculous easy “Eh, it was a passing impulse; I am now above it all.”

  2. iknklast says

    Does this really keep women out of things? Hell, yes. I have never had a blog, though I have many things I would like to say. I simply can’t take this sort of thing, and it has kept me from blogging about my specialty (environmental science) because I know the very fact of my being a woman would unleash all sorts of horrors on me the minute I said something someone didn’t like. I have to deal with sexism enough at work and in the real world; this total immersion into the ugly internet world would definitely freeze me out.

  3. Bill Openthalt says

    Women are being systematically deliberately forcibly kept out, in a way far more conspiratorial and intentional than I would ever have imagined possible

    A field like computing doesn’t have a directorate that meets and decides on a strategy to keep out a gender. Even if a bunch of people style themselves suchly, the worst they can do is harass people the way spammers and scammers harass all of us. There aren’t all that many of these lowlifes on the planet, but they do manage to make email useless were it not for spam filters. On the Internet, a few motivated loutish people can have an impact far beyond their number.

    I do not attend many conferences, and hence I cannot comment on how the vast majority of attendees behave. I do play concerts though, and I know that sometimes a few unruly folk ruin the experience for everyone, certainly for the musicians. In my experience, the vast majority of people are rather nice, but unlikely to take action in any direction. As John Stuart Mill said: “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”

    An intentional conspiracy of a few? Yes. Anything more? Very unlikely.

  4. says

    Well that’s all I meant. Not a conspiracy of everyone, but a conspiracy and intention of a few. Not just random screaming, but a focused effort to keep women out.

  5. says

    An intentional conspiracy of a few? Yes. Anything more? Very unlikely.

    The “more” is precisely the mass of people who prefer to avert their eyes than to do anything about it. If they would stop pretending that apathy and ignorance is a workable strategy, this thing would be over already.

  6. Martha says

    Yes, what Sally said! The so-called nice people who assure women over and over again that we must be imagining things. I’m sorry, but that’s condescending bullshit, Bill. There are assholes everywhere, but good people– at least thoughtful, good people– don’t pretend that their effect is smaller than it is.

    As one of my science colleagues said to me the other other day, all of my male colleagues are amazed at how badly *other* men treat women, but none ever considers that he might unintentionally do things to make the situation worse. I really wish male scientists as a group were not so resistant to the idea of unconscious bias. Yes, there a few who get it or are willing to struggle with the issue, but most people see it as someone else’s fault.

  7. says

    Hey, iknklast, you wanna blog on my blog? Total anonymity, or pseudonymity rather. My degree is in environmental science but I haven’t had a whole lot of work in my field since graduating. I’d love to have someone else to find interesting things to say about environmental science, as it is among my favorite things.

    Email me – Ophelia can give you my email or forward yours to me. I think. Yes, Ophelia? Or no. Anyway.

    *awkward*

  8. Tessa says

    it’s forgotten that it’s not about female speakers, it’s about finding female speakers who have enough of a thick skin to want to stand up infront of an audience of twitter-trigger-happy males and public speak.

    This! This can’t be said enough. And it’s not only about speaking. It’s even participating in the fields. A man needs the aptitude to go into these fields, and a woman needs the aptitude + resistance to the harassment and being underestimated or dismissed.

  9. Pteryxx says

    A man needs the aptitude to go into these fields, and a woman needs the aptitude + resistance to the harassment and being underestimated or dismissed.

    ^^^

    And a woman typically needs the aptitude plus 50% or so, depending on the field, to compensate for being perceived as less competent by default. Screened orchestra auditions anyone?

  10. jenniferphillips says

    inklast, I completely agree. I’ve thought about starting a personal blog for a few years now, but when even my comments on other people’s blogs can garner unwelcome attention, I really don’t know if I have either the chops or the time to effectively moderate my own space. Makes me grumpy.

  11. athyco says

    SallyStrange @6:

    The “more” is precisely the mass of people who prefer to avert their eyes than to do anything about it. If they would stop pretending that apathy and ignorance is a workable strategy, this thing would be over already.

    No apathy against ignorance! I want the t-shirt. :)

  12. laconicsax says

    “…this is one huge reason it’s such a mistake ever to claim that the reason there are so few women in ___________ is because “it’s more of a guy thing.””

    Uh oh, looks like Michael Shermer has another Inquisition (that was one he used, right?) to defend himself against.

  13. Pteryxx says

    Sounds like blogging as collectives, with multiple moderators doing screening from the outset, might be a way to go?

  14. bad Jim says

    When I saw this mentioned at Pharyngula I had no idea how bad it was. The sheer misogyny on display in the brief excerpt there was surprising but not jaw-dropping. This is something else, though. I would like to be able to say that nothing human is alien to me, and I’m actually a member of the tech tribe, but this is way outside my experience.

    Normally we worry about overlooking or under-rating people who aren’t like us, not noticing that we’ve always been a club for middle-class white boys, not realizing the many ways we drive anyone else away. The sorts of remedies Pteryxx suggests at 11, taking sex out of selection as with auditions behind screens, or, where that’s not possible, compensating for bias by applying a correction factor, seem like they might be an effective approach.

    Parmenter’s experience (like Ophelia’s, like everyone else’s) shows that this is something much uglier than oversight or neglect or ignorance. I still think that it helps to do everything we can to eliminate discrimination and compensate for prejudice, that in the long run just having more women and minorities in the professions will eradicate this sort of nonsense…

    but Holy Shit! What is wrong with those guys? I don’t get it. They’re allegedly adults with a middle-school mind-set. How do we fix that? Something more aggressive than just not discriminating against women any more, maybe a generalization of “Don’t Be That Guy? It shouldn’t be cool to be an asshole, but it’s still considered “edgy, risk-taking, daring” even though it’s cheap and easy.

    Since it’s probably all the same damned thing, a sustained assault upon rape culture may be what we need most. How? Beats me. Shaming & mockery, career termination, the usual. No, it didn’t work for the cheerleaders for the last war, it’s rarely effective in Hollywood, and defenestration and bobbitting are right out, but it’s not going to be enough to make a show of leveling the playing field.

  15. says

    @Pteryxx,

    Sounds like blogging as collectives, with multiple moderators doing screening from the outset, might be a way to go?

    Should mention it on the A+ forum, there was a thread about skills you can donate to help people out. I was going to put technical on there as I’ve set up my own wordpress “network” with my two blogs on (Although I gave up trying to fix the broken SEO URLs)… It runs on a cheap EC2 micro instance, for under £100 a year and I’d probably be persuaded to pay for another one to host atheist/feminist/a+ blogs for a year. Probably more expensive as I wanted a server I have 100% control over.

    You can easily map multiple domain names to blogs or have sub-domains like FtBs do… Depends on if you want to make it look like a network or not I suppose. I have oolon.co.uk and my woefully un-updated professional blog performance-corner.co.uk pointing to the same wordpress network instance.

    You could then easily have a shared email account for moderation where only those who want to moderate comments can filter out the dross for the others on the “network”.

  16. kaboobie says

    I apologize for this unrelated comment, but this seemed the most appropriate of Ophelia’s recent posts to attach it to. Harriet Hall has written what I think is a pretty good post at Science Based Medicine:

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/gender-differences-and-why-they-dont-matter-so-much/

    I still don’t agree with her defense of Shermer, and a couple of things she said rang false to me (and are pointed out in the comments, which have been mostly good so far). But I think I understand better where she is coming from, and I was inspired to order her memoir (it helped that the Kindle version is only $3.03 at the moment).

    There’s a very interesting comment from David Gorski…I’ll leave it to be dissected by others.

  17. kaboobie says

    And I see Ophelia has posted a comment since I read Hall’s article. I’m too slow as usual…

  18. daniellavine says

    A field like computing doesn’t have a directorate that meets and decides on a strategy to keep out a gender.

    It doesn’t need one. People enforce these norms without even being told to. That’s pretty much what all this talk about privilege is in the first place.

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