tech girl with laptop

I do not want to have sex with you and other things women in tech have to say

I try stay out of the South African sexism in gaming and tech debate. Honestly it is because I think, many of the time, it is less about sexism in the industry and more about pushing forward a personal agenda. Whether it be to build followers, garner attention or simply because you didn’t get something and now feel hard done by – I don’t think those that scream loudly about it actually have the best interests of other women at heart. Many a time the loudest voices shouting sexism are also the loudest voices critiquing other women in the industry and basically pulling everyone down so they can step on them to get higher.

So I try not weigh in on sexism in the South African tech and gaming industry.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve said my piece every so often (you can read one of those brain vomits by clicking here). I just don’t feel it as much as the rest. Or, I do, but I was raised with stronger skin and find it easy enough to brush off. Getting angry because someone thinks you know less based on your gender isn’t the answer, many a time it comes from years of societal norms dictated to someone. Over time they’ll change their opinion if you give them a chance.

But sometimes something happens that makes you realise your glass half full mentality isn’t going to change a thing.

mobile gaming

A few months ago someone hit on me. It wasn’t blatant but it was there. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with hitting on a woman you find attractive or are interested in. Hell, I would be a nun otherwise because I’m actually extremely shy around men I’m attracted to. My ex-boyfriends have almost always had to make the first move. However, in this particular instance I was not interested and declined. When I started Tech Girl I was warned not to mix my personal life with the public. I was told to never show interest or entertain the idea of a relationship with a man in the industry because it would be bad for my reputation.

Let that sink in for awhile.

couple holding hands

Despite the opportunity to find a fellow geek to share my passions with, despite the possibility that you may just get along, don’t do it. Why? Well, let me continue and you’ll see why.

I ignored the advances. I made it clear in the politest way possible that I wasn’t interested. We continued a somewhat professional relationship – though barely dealt with one another. Months on this man took it upon himself to discuss me amongst a group. He made some ridiculous claims that bought in to question my professional integrity. I was a bitch. I was stupid. I was out to screw everyone over.

Because that is what women are when you don’t get your way with them.

My friend Maz from Caffeine & Fairydust wrote the most incredible blog post awhile back around the Stanford Rapes. It touched on the issues we, as women, face daily. How we grow up dealing with real life sexism that we stop even realising it exists. It was one of the strongest blog posts I’ve read. Here’s a excerpt:

I have been called a bitch, a whore and worse by strangers whose flirtations I did not reciprocate

I’ve had strangers pull down my top, pull up my top and grab me in order to see my tattoos – without my permission.

I have had strangers grab my arm and press me up against them so that they can tell me I am pretty and they want to kiss me, without my permission.

I have had strangers grab my arm and press me up against them so that they can tell me what sexual acts they wanted to do with my body, without my permission.

I’ve had strangers grab my breast(s) while dancing in a club, without my permission.

I’ve had strangers rub/stroke my breast(s), without my permission.

You can read the full post here.

I was upset when I heard the comments made about me. Upset because I have a record of all our conversations and the allegations made were completely false. I was upset because my professional character was bought in to question. I was upset because I wanted to prove that these accusations were false. Yet, it also got me thinking: Why is it, in work or other situations, when a woman turns a man down she is some sort of horrible creature? Why is it that if she doesn’t want to sleep with you she is a slut?

Why must a woman’s sexuality be bought in to the discussion?

nerd barbie

It makes me sad. The truth is I work in the technology and gaming space. It is a passion. The chances are that a future relationship will likely be with someone interested in technology and gaming because our interests are the same. However, based on this current sexist dynamic can it ever happen? Because the moment I mix my personal life in to the space I’ll likely hear about how I slept my way to the top or only got somewhere because of who I’m dating. Hell, even I’m guilty of saying this about someone!

I have highly successful female friends in this space who have had horrible and similar things said about them. How they only got their job because of the way they looked or who they slept with. You either got where you are because you spread your legs or, you’re a cold hearted bitch. There is no middle ground. No inbetween. One or the other.

But what is the solution? I don’t want my male friends to think they cannot talk to me for fear of me thinking they’re crossing the line. I don’t want to presume that a male being friendly to me wants to sleep with me and thus feel scared of what could happen (this goes both ways – if I want it and if I don’t). I don’t want to be ostracised. But I also don’t want to feel like if I don’t return your advances there is a chance you’ll go on the attack.

I shudder to think what would happen if I met someone in the space that I actually wanted to pursue a relationship with or how many opportunities were lost because I was too afraid to pursue it based on the above.

For me, sexism in the gaming and tech industry is less about video game characters’ asses and the sexual interpretation of women and more about the actual discussions happening in the scene. I don’t think adding pants to a gaming expo mascot is going to fix the above.

So what will?

  1. It’s weird how guys in tech and gaming never do this to women outside of the industry but when its a female in the industry suddenly its ok to act like this. Also the married men sending creepy messages while their wives are at home with the baby or toddler is just so wrong.

  2. I see this sort of post more and more often, and it really bugs me… Not that you are letting this out, but rather reading on the ‘band-aid’ approach to try resolve it all. Like you stated regarding putting the pants on the mascot, in fact, doing that is only fueling the situation, just think about it..

    We have a tendancy, as a people, to run after things and fix them instead of rectifying the problem at the source. In my opinion, this sort of sexism in gaming/tech has little to nothing to do with women and their standings in the industry. It’s easy to see it that was because that’s a visible effect, but really, that’s just what it is, an effect.

    To cut to the point, I believe the source is not whether women have ‘earned their place’ by merit or not, but rather it is the mouth from where that comment came from. Every pro has its con, and with the advances in technology and (arguably) society the biggest con is instant gratification. What that has now meant for us is that ego’s grow exponentially for men before they even hit manhood, and it’s pumped and fueled from there-on-out… All without being kept in check. Previous generations knew the importance of being kept in check, if you spoke to bold as a boy, you were put in your place… Now though, there’s a 13 year old with a 2.8 KD ratio that’s ‘strutting his stuff’ around the ‘school yard’ and there’s nothing being done about it. So now picture that same kid in 10 years time, what has he learnt? That people will shower him with money if he streams his games and insults whoever he plays against… Now to come back to the original thought, put a female gamer into that mix, how do you think he’s going to treat her…

    Ag, this is something I can go into depth over but I’m typing on my phone so it would take me several days. Forgive how my input was a bit all over the place, difficult to summarise on first draft 😉

    I agree that this is incredibly wrong to be as it is, and I wish I knew how to fix it, but I think it stems from something much deeper than the surface sexism that us seen.

  3. What an awful story!! No two ways about it, sexism is still rampant (even if it is improving in tech/gaming) and so horrible when you experience it for real.
    also, the more i’ve spread my online exposure into different areas, the more i see that this seems to be true in many industries – film, fashion and even books. however, in tech/gaming it feels even worse, and maybe IS even worse, because there seem to be fewer women to go around. so, it’s more likely for a woman to experience this more times from a range of people. what a shame you’ve had to go through this, and it really taints the awesomeness of the industry we love.

  4. Men are complete and utter dicks, Sam. I’m sorry you had to go through that, on behalf of all men out there. 🙁

    Most men are conditioned to sexualise women. Have been for thousands of years, I think. We see phallic images everywhere, and sex is a huge part of our thinking, I don’t know why, but there’s definitely an element of truth to jokes like “A man thinks about sex every six seconds” or “At any point in time, a man is either horny or hungry”.

    It happens in all spheres, and even I have to force myself to ignore the urge to stare at a woman’s cleavage sometimes – there’s lots of truth to the whole “Eyes up here!” thing as well.

    I ALSO think that many “men” in gaming are horny-net-geeks, socially awkward guys who are afraid they’ll never get a girl and are hence very afraid to talk to one. They then place far too much emphasis/importance on sex, and in the interests of not being looked down upon by friends, will make up stories about what sluts/bitches/etc the women who’ve rejected them are.

    I think you’re right that most men will eventually come around, given enough time, and we’ll start seeing women as equals and fellow human beings FIRST, and sexual creatures second. But it doesn’t help all those women suffering from abuse in the meantime. 🙁

    Obviously, I’m making sweeping generalisations in this comment, and re-enforcing so many stereotypes. I’m sorry for that – I know that it’s not all men, and not in all situations. But the conditioning IS real.

    1. I completely agree, but the thing is – I dont mind if you’re staring at my cleavage or flirting with me or whatever. It’s human nature. I do have an issue when you put me down and lie about me when I decline your advances though.

  5. Guess nothing changes despite all the tech etc people are basically still the same. About 40 years ago I worked for a steel company, in the office at first doing the secretary thing, as all good woman should in those days, then progressed to the orders dept where architects etc would ask me technical questions about the products….It was fine when I was anonymous in the office, I was always treated with respect and dignity. Funny how that changed when I was made a Rep and sent out on the road to meet all these people and inform them of new products and how they were used etc…suddenly I was an airhead that had slept with the boss…..or I was only employed because I was young and sexy and could sleep my way into obtaining orders….. so GO SAM maybe you can make a difference for all woman and us old ladies can finally gain some closure as well…..

    1. I hear ya.

      A lot of men have this ridiculous notion that if a woman turns them down, there must be something wrong with them (the men, not the woman). And the more times they suffer this rejection, the more ingrained this impression becomes.

      With that in mind, it’s a way of appearing less weak – not only to their peers, but to themselves as well. “She turned me down, so she must just be a complete bitch/slut/whore. The only other alternative is that there’s something wrong with ME, and I can’t accept that.”

      I think this problem is more prevalent when we’re young and stupid, and still actually care enough about what other people think, but it never really goes away.

      Of course, as you pointed out, making up stories like that about you, when you have a RECORD of the actual conversation, is beyond stupid. 😛

      P.S. The OTHER thing that a man could think if a woman rejects him is that he just needs to try harder, or that she’s playing hard to get. I like to think that in this day and age, even the densest man has realised that this is not the case, because acting on THAT particular assumption is very, very bad indeed.

      To any man who may be reading this comment, don’t go there. No means no. End of story. 🙁

  6. It’s not just the gaming/tech world. I collect military memorabilia and I found out (when I refused someone’s advances) that I was “sleeping my way around”. More common that anyone wants to admit.

  7. 1. May I kick his ass?
    2. Thank you for the mention and the lovely words about my disturbing blog posts
    3. The only way to fix this issue is to actually start standing up for ourselves. To make a noise and show we won’t stand for this crap. I can’t imagine what it must be like on the workplace – I am lucky enough to not work with any straight men. This makes me sad… You are awesome, and sweet and funny – and I doubt anyone in their right mind would believe such nasty things about you.

  8. I read articles like this and i wonder what the hell is wrong with the world and where did all the gentleman and chivalry go or when did it all suddenly become “not cool to do”, I was raised by my grandparents and was taught to respect women, you know open doors, take off my hat, give up my seat and i get such odd looks when i do this (even from the women i have done this for) but as a single dad of two girls i want them to see that they should be respected and not take crap from the world, and i think that’s where the problem lies is it starts at home but life has become such a rat race that parents don’t have the time anymore to drill the idea of “respect” into their kids, don’t get me wrong I’m not saying that they are bad parents or doing things wrong I honestly have no right to say that, but what I’m saying is that all the small things get overlooked now because of how hectic life has become no one slows down now to think, and being a single dad i can say I’m guilty of this too.

    1. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head Mathew. There is so much more to this than what can be written in one article or summed up in the comments section. Changing it starts at a societal level and requires far more work than I think any of us even realise.

  9. Some people are sore losers.
    When they are rejected, they lash out with anger, trying to hurt you back.
    I once had a girl ruin my standing, painting me as some kind of filthy player because I told her that we had to stop chatting online. (We agreed to be friends at first and things had not progressed at all. I decided to move on and look for somebody else.)

    I don’t think this is something specific to one gender, or to the tech industry.
    Rather, I found that it happens more often outside of the industry.

    Reputation is something that must be fortified slowly over time, and then one can only hope it is strong enough so that the lies are obvious and easy to dismiss.

    Not everybody you meet in life will handle rejection well. Some people can really lose their minds.

  10. Sad that this is out there happening to people. I don’t know what the solutions are to this epidemic. It’s all over society everywhere. My guess would be that people need better role-models. Especially Father figures, strict Father figures. I was bliksem’d, and it sounds rough but I’d prefer it over anything else. If you don’t feel the punishment for your deeds you won’t regret doing it again in future. Men (often indirectly) teach younger males how to act and react around woman, and to respect woman. From when I was raised up, half the stuff you see today as the norm would not even be happening. Boys today really have bad role models, and it’s showing. Sorry about this Sam.

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