I love men's epiphanies! Especially when they're sweet and have utopian visions of collective social action - that rocks. I strongly believe in this:
Neither of our work is done, but I have a strong feeling that the connection betw Grace and myself is going to create a path that lots of men and lots of women go down, working together, to make the world a happier, more fair and better-running place.
But I have some problems with the tone of the article and want to pick on Dave a little - and on various other men whose names I don't remember. It is not like Dave is an especially awful example of sexism - quite the contrary - it's just that he's visible. Plus, he can take it.
I promised Dave that my jackbooted feminazi foot would be gentle, this time. Even perky! I'll try! I'll show him my underwear and giggle while I explain what yanks my chain.
So here is an opportunity for some more learning... let's look at Dave's take on BlogHer, regendered:
They are beautiful hunks, but not like like booth bimbos, more like Thomas and Louis. So you got a great ratio, and they're smart and driven, but that's not all -- they're also bloggers! Which means I don't have to explain what blogging is.
Heh heh... Read it and think about the places where the language is off-key & think about why that is. It does have a tone that Dave expected to feel unwelcome, or expected to be surrounded by unattractive, frowning bitches? Or feels that his readers might have that expectation and he wants to reassure them that it's not true?
I can't even start in on the stuff about how the 20 to 1 gender ratio was heaven for men. Grrrrrreat! Because women exist to make men feel loved and comfortable!
I'm just trying to imagine ever feeling like this at a conference or workplace full of men and I'm coming up short. There's hostility in those situations, but it's mostly about having your "self" be invisible - about men automatically paying more serious attention to each other's ideas and opinions; like there's a game field where they interact (homosocially) and their attention to women, if it exists, takes place off that field. It's being at a meeting and saying something that is ignored, and then a man repeats it 5 minutes later and everyone attributes the idea to him. It's being at Bloggercon and the IRC channel being full of comments on the female Bloggercon attendees' looks - along with links to photos of them in their underwear. Was there a BlogHer backchannel where we compared the men's looks, and bodies, and winning smiles, and how cute they are when they cock their head to the side and giggle, and gossip about their qualities as ex-boyfriends of one or the other women in tech?
But every guy who's talked with me about Bloggercon has talked about how *I* was fierce and scary on the IRC channel - because I pointed out sexism - and even then I hear how they're surprised that they consider me nice-looking, or that I'm smiling at them, or they even flirt and tell me that they wonder why they are always attracted to fierce scary feminist women: they make sure to let me know that even my empowerment and anger, to them, is a sexual commodity.
There is a subtext in what Dave says that if women aren't sexy, flirty, smiling, glad to see him, and good-natured, then they're not worth listening to, or they're not going to be listened to. There is a message for women in that pervasive societal message. I feel sure he didn't mean that - but honest to god that's how it comes off to me.
If I expected men - in tech or anywhere - to be sexy, flirting, good-natured, smiley, welcoming, and happy to see me, I'd be waiting a long time . . . Do men compliment each other at conferences on their friendly sexy smilyness? I'd like to see it.
So with that in mind, why do I flounce around in ball gowns? Okay... number one, it's fun. But two - it doesn't matter if I do or not. I can dress utterly butch in my jeans, techie polo shirt, belt, leatherman tool, and boots, not smile or cock my head to the side, and just be "neutral" -- and still be dismissed, not included, sexually harassed, paid less, and the target of misogynist jokes. In fact, the butcher I dressed in tech, and the more serious I acted, the more misogynist jokes I was subject to hearing - I was expected to participate in them to prove I was one of the guys. Even though my girl cooties would never, ever, go away. Since it doesn't matter . . . as many women who either butch it up a little bit or who dress in professional-lady drag discover. . . I might as well do whatever the hell is fun for me - which includes ball gowns, bikinis, nakedness, suits, and scruffy jeans with tshirts. It would be nice if men were also "free" to play with all those images and identities for themselves. But because of misogyny & patriarchy, they aren't. It's so awful to be girly that most men don't dare.
I'd like to challenge any men in tech who are reading this to think about their very own workplace. How much do the men get paid and how much do the women get paid? Why? Are all the women in lower positions and the men in higher? Anything you can do about that?
Do you get asked, guys, during your techie job interviews, and networking events and stuff, if you're married and if you have kids and if you're planning a family? Are you ever present at a conversation where men wave their hands and dismiss some woman b/c she will probably just have babies anyway and then be less productive or involved at the workplace? I've been there for those conversations.
So, saving the world is important, helping disaster victims is also important, but look a little closer to home. Look in what is in your own power. Next time some other dude says something messed up... speak up and call them on it... you can do it gently, just by asking them a question, like "Do you think it's okay to say that in front of me? Why?" You'll find out then, probably, that just questioning as nicely as possible will get you called the PC police. But it will also get you any women in earshot thanking you privately later.
We've all heard this rant before. I do feel like I have to keep saying it, though mostly I try to move on to focus on other women, what they're doing, and positive changes and action.
Things *are* changing, and men are coming along on a journey of their own thought and consciousness of these issues... it's nice to see.