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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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