{November 21, 2013}   Dear Internet: Stop telling me I’m female.

I’ve noticed a pattern at conferences and meetups lately. Some guy comes up to me, and the first words out of his mouth are something like “it’s so nice to see girls in programming” or “so how can we get more women in tech?” or something. It seems quite well-intentioned – I imagine he thinks it’s an easy way to break the ice, or wants to communicate that he’s not sexist, or at worst is trying to score brownie points – but it’s making me uncomfortable. It took me a while to figure out what I was feeling – the last couple of times I just sorta awkwardly ran away – so now that I’ve figured it out, I’m blogging it.

I do not like being reminded of my gender at tech events. Especially with the recent drama I’ve been seeing on twitter. I’d much rather forget that I’m different, and talk to you about how awesome node is, or bitch about android and ios, or hear about some cool project you’re working on. Please, just use the same damn ice-breakers you’d use if I was a guy.

Besides, I do not get magical feminist superpowers from my ovaries: I’m just as lost as most guys when it comes to all the women-in-tech issues (except t-shirts. I can go on about that one for ages). That’s part of the reason I don’t want to be asked about it, I suppose; thinking about it makes me feel lost and helpless and confused. And remembering that I’m a girl makes me feel a bit more self-conscious and awkward.

I might wander into conversations about it from time to time – more likely after several drinks – but please, don’t make it the first thing you say to me.

Linda M says:

You have Adria Richards and her ilk to thank for this. No guy will ever approach you at a tech event and treat you like one of the guys ever again. For one, they’re not idiots and realize that not treating women as a class needing protection is political suicide, as the media stands ready to tell you “why asking what she could’ve done differently is wrong”. For another, thanks to geek feminists, people now associate “women in tech” with “women talking about feminism in tech” as opposed to “women who build awesome tech”.

Go read one of Ada Initiative’s statements, they most certainly do want to remind you of their gender and how oppressed they feel it is.

Chani says:

o.0 the fuck? No, I’m not going to blame people trying to solve problems for other people awkwardly reminding me of those problems. Hell, I don’t want to play the blame game at all. I just want to fix this apparent misconception that asking me about gender issues is a good idea.

Adron says:

Chani – if you see me at a conf, user group or the like. We can talk tech. I won’t take Linda M’s approach and I won’t give you the awkward approach that you’ve described above.

Just sayin’.

As far as Linda M’s statement, that’s a bit egregarious, I’ll admit frustration at certain feminists that cease to talk tech and only want to talk about how oppressed and hated women are – but I just skip that conversation with them and dive into the tech. They’re usually perfectly happy to discuss tech too, they’re just distinctly aware of the oppresive nature of the existing patriarchy. I’m not going to publicly give them shit for pointing out the absurdity of sexist (or racist, discriminatory) or other points of view. They’re simply points of view. If there is a contingent of “brogrammer” out there that can’t get over it, then that’s just something we have to work on. There’s no reason to blame one group for being more aware or understanding of the situation than the other group. It all equates to a dramatic need for more education. I personally find learning a blast, even if it’s about hard and frustrating things that aren’t tech – like equality. But it’s worth pushing for.

Anyway, I digress, got a node.js app to un-break. My tests just stopped working but I figured a break to comment was well worth it.

Don’t let em’ discourage ya Chani. :)

No one of consequence says:

It’s safer not to talk to women at all – you never know which ones are going to start shrieking SEXISM! PATRIARCHY! MISOGYNY! as soon as you say hello, then start a Twitter campaign to get you fired.

Chani says:

It’s safer not to leave the house at all – you never know which guy is going to follow you home and rape you :P

But seriously. Responding to “please don’t do X, do Y instead” with “fine I won’t do anything at all” is not productive. If you actually think your communication skills are so bad they’re likely to get you fired, then work on improving them. Geeks get a lot of leeway for awkwardness, and that’s a good thing, but don’t abuse it.

I get around this by being the person breaking the ice, and I realize not everyone has the personality for that. I did find it discouraging to be asked about “getting a women’s track going” at a conf, when I asked about posting a harassment policy on the website. It took me a long time to figure out why that was so discouraging. I think it was first that harassment was seen as a women’s issue and not an issue for all of us, and second that it was seen as a good idea to single women out for their own track.

We are all in this together, people. Everybody enjoys the feeling of camaraderie and friendliness at gatherings, and each of us has our part in making others feeling welcome. We don’t need just more women, but more diversity in our membership, our thinking, our governance. We enhance both creativity and resilience when we focus together on what we want, rather than freezing out anybody not just like ourselves.

Chani says:

Yeah… I’ve been noticing stuff like that lately too. Some guy made a list of female programmers on twitter and my first thought was “uhoh, I hope I’m not on that”.

I think the reason it makes me uncomfortable is that it’s putting women on display. The intention seems to be to prove that women in tech exist and are awesome, but in my eyes at least, the effect is more.. Divisive. Putting women up on a pedestal isn’t healthy and doesn’t encourage men & women to treat each other like equals.

I’m much more of a fan of offering resources to women to help them write a good talk proposal and get it accepted. Hell, offer them to anyone – we have plenty of shy boys who have interesting things to say too.

Andrew says:

Okay I won’t remind you your a girl, but I will wait with you and offer you a massage…. ahhh BCIT goodtimes

Andrew says:

*Wait with you after class that is

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