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.