So, a good friend of mine recently witnessed a somewhat typical event for me: someone said some shitty gendered comments to me at a game gathering type thing. You can read about what happened here, but I want to talk about something slightly different because honestly, this sort of thing happening has been talked about quite a lot and I’m far from a unique case.
While talking to another friend after though, I was told I had a surprising degree of restraint in dealing with another man who reacted to this by saying he was just as interested in my tits as he was my games. I wanted to touch on why I have patience with people like this, and why I try to engage in good-faith discussion even when it seems like other people might not be so interested.
Beer courage helps me write this too.
I used to be a misogynist, too.
That’s a hard sentence to write, and a hard thing to own up to. But I feel like it’s important to do so. Another woman I’ve spoken with seemingly went through the same thing and said to me something I’ll never forget: “I think that some of the people most embroiled in making this a better, more inclusive community used to be part of the problem.”
When I was growing up, I was literally the only female friend I’d had. I was always more of a tomboy, always kind of a geek, always queer. I’d never really fit in that greatly with other girls, and all of my friends were boys. I was quickly indoctrinated in to nerd culture, and I quickly learned the lessons that come with that - largely that women and femininity were to be eschewed, and that I was “one of the good ones”. A funny thing happens when you’re the only girl in the group - part of your identity becomes being “the girl”. You internalize so many of the negative messages and make sure you remove the parts of you that seem too girly. You laugh at the sexist jokes. You don’t wear makeup or talk about your emotions. You engage in figuring out if women more attractive than you are just “attention whores”. I used to declare that I found it hard to be friends with women (as though they were the problem and not me) - as though it was something to be proud of, that I wasn’t “uptight” or “bitchy” or any of the things nerd culture likes to convince you is unique to women and wrong. It’s gross, but you buy into it because you don’t realize you’re in the wrong. When other girls appeared, I tended to treat them with mistrust, as though they had to prove themselves for some *stupid* reason. I did exactly as my male peers did, and we were put in direct competition more often than not by them. After all, there can’t be two “the girl”s.
Another wonderful outspoken women said to me once “Everyone comes to realize things at their own pace, and it’s important to realize that”.
As I grew up a bit and stopped being such an awkward teenager, I met more and more people. I started seeing this sort of distrust running through other interactions with women. I started seriously examining my automatic mistrust of women in nerd spaces, I started doubting the marketing. I started taking less shit from my male peers too. Getting involved in LGBTQ activism and coming out as queer did a lot for me, but talking to other women who shared the same distrust and insecurity around their identity and legitimacy in nerdy spaces helped.
Years later, and I’m trying to help women in this industry as much as I can - from leading incubators and starting organizations, to one-on-one mentorship and being there to rant and vent and cry when another one of us gets insulted, snubbed, or excluded.
So I get it. I, unfortunately, get it. I don’t think it’s anyone’s responsibility to educate other people when they’re being hurt or excluded. I more than understand when people are just angry. But I try to put all of that aside and reach out because other people did it for me once. I was shown the way and given patience, and if I hadn’t been, I’d likely still be a terrible person.
I guess I just want to write this to demonstrate that sometimes there can be change. I am still hopeful and try to do what I can when I can (though there are absolutely days when I just CAN NOT DEAL and need to go have a beer, do art, and get away from the internet too), because I secretly hope that someday we can all be on the same page. I fully understand that this is likely stupidly optimistic, but I’m ok with that.
Drunk ramble over. I love all of you, and I hope to welcome as many people to the empathy party as possible someday.