First I'm like - "Woah, I can't imagine someone would be so insensitive to make joke like this!" and get all fed up and upset.
But then... then I freeze, because next example is something that I can imagine myself saying.
"Oop, Katie's got the low cut dress on today! I know where I'm sitting!"
On a similar note - I have exact same problem with how I perceive woman and man having multiple sexual partners.
"Good key opens many locks, but good lock is opened by only one key" and all that bullshit - I know that it's ridiculous to hold woman and men to different standard in this regard, and I mostly learned to don't do that, but my... instinct that was ingrained in me by society tells me otherwise.
I find myself struggling to suppress my subconscious mind in this regard, and frankly, I don't know how I can help it.
Edit for clarity: I don't have problem with such posts being written and upvoted, quite opposite actually, I'm glad they are written and read. I have problem with how posts like this make me feel.
Person A in Situation X can say and do things that are perfectly acceptable that would be deplorable and disgusting if Person B in Situation Y did precisely, exactly, identically the same thing. You can grab your lover's ass, but try that on a random stranger.
Which makes telling people what they can and can't do supremely difficult. There are no objective rules for acceptable human behavior, nor can there be. Which is why feedback is so important.
It's "lighten up!" That translates roughly to: "what I was doing that bothered you is so important to me that I refuse to stop, so get over it." I think that is the core problem.
It is a lack of communication issue. In that article, many of the "lighten up's" are assumed based on past experiences. For example, she did not even address the guy for fear of interrupting the meeting.
Certainly the latter is not a demand and is even a question, but I would argue that even barring that, it's far more of a problem.
> frankly, I don't know how I can help it.
Two things you can do are practice and self-education. Subscribe to http://geekfeminism.org and http://feministing.com. Reading those posts will give you the stories and information you need to understand the effects of your actions.
Then practice. You won't immediately be able to catch everything, so just focus on the things that make you hesitate. Those moments when I think "maybe I shouldn't say this", I almost always learn later that I was right. Use at hesitation to do a little analysis of what the effect of your words might be.
You can also practice in your head, or in conversation. When you're on the bus, think about things you said recently, and analyze them. Look for things that might've hurt people. When you're having conversations with people, think about what you would've said in that situation. Practice the analysis, and practice saying the right things.
You'll never be perfect, but you can TOTALLY get to the point where you're mostly not harming people. Which is an awesome place to get from the default for men, which is harming people over all day without having any clue.
At the risk of revealing myself to be a chauvinistic jerk, is this kind of response sexist and demeaning, or just inappropriate for the workplace? Why do women wear low-cut dresses if not to attract male attention (in the majority of cases)? Would it be sexist and demeaning for me to notice and comment on a low-cut dress in another context (like a bar)? What about with my wife? Is it sexist and demeaning to find her sexually attractive?
I'm not disagreeing that the statement is offensive and inappropriate, but I'm not sure it's sexist.
Yes, Virginia, this is sexist. Holy hell, is it sexist.
You are characterizing a woman's behavior in terms of how it makes you, as a man, feel. There are many reasons that a human might dress a particular way, but by characterizing it as a gender-based, "she wore that to make me do this" kind of transaction you have incorrectly emphasized a single way. This woman wore it for no other reason than to attract male attention? Really? Are you sure? Her decision is entirely based on how it would make a man feel?
I'm a heterosexual man and I wear certain jeans because I like to show off my butt. That's fine. But am I doing it because I want to attract "female attention"? Not exactly. This turns on a subtle point, but it's very important: I wore them for me, not for anyone else. Feeling attractive is not the same as receiving attention. I don't want to be honked at, felt up, leered at, or even commented on. But I do want to look good. Does that make sense?
This situation is only exacerbated when you bring in gender dynamics: men and women are equal, yes, but women are the ones who've been oppressed for centuries and are struggling up the slope to reach equality. What a man says to a woman exists within this context, so simply reversing the roles and pointing out that it's okay HERE but not THERE is not sufficient.
Check out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaze The section about feminism and the male gaze applies here, too.
Of course I'm not sure. But when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras. Why do all the waitresses in Hooters wear low-cut tops? Is it for comfort? Is it because they couldn't afford the other 30% of the shirt? Or is it because that's proven to be very effective at gaining male attention?
I wore them for me, not for anyone else.
This makes no sense. In a post-apocolyptic world where you're the only person on earth, would you dress the same way you do now? Would the last woman on earth wear low-cut dresses and mini-skirts? I doubt it. Being "attractive" specifically refers to other peoples' attention and emotions towards you.
I'm not saying that it's ok to leer at women, to verbally or physically harass them, etc. But it's incredibly ludicrous to me to think that someone dressed in a manner usually considered "provocative" probably did so without any intention, or that anyone responding to that mode of dress is automatically sexist.
Would it be appropriate for a woman to start coming into the office topless? Would it be sexist of me to find that sexually arousing? If so, I guess I'm a sexist. My only consolation is knowing that I'm not alone and that you (if you're a heterosexual male) are almost certainly right there with me :)
Seriously, stop right there. Read what you just wrote. You're comparing a professional developer who chose to dress comfortably to women chosen for sex appeal by a restaurant which is only a step away from a strip club.
There is something seriously wrong with the way you are approaching this issue.
To answer your last question-- I'm a straight guy, and no, I wouldn't find it sexually arousing if a co-worker came in to work topless. Probably because I'm not fifteen, and I've seen boobs before.
Okay, I would be surprised at first, probably a little more so than if it was a male co-worker, but if it's what either of them wanted to be comfortable in their office I would get over it. And if a male co-worker couldn't restrain himself from making sexually suggestive comments, I would be pretty disgusted by his behavior.
(Don't forget, by the way, it's perfectly legal for women to be topless in public in both NYC and San Francisco, so this is certainly a possibility.)
You're arguing a straw man. I didn't say anything remotely close to that; my point was just that wearing low-cut tops and dressing for sex appeal are usually correlated.
I'm a straight guy, and no, I wouldn't find it sexually arousing if a co-worker came in to work topless.
Can you expand on this a little? It makes sense if the person was someone you didn't find attractive at all, but what if you did find that person attractive in normal work dress? Would you seriously not be aroused if they came into work topless? Or do you magically turn off your sense of attraction at work? I'm not sure I believe you, but even if that's true, it's clearly not for the vast majority of male society. Hence the plethora of advertising and marketing aimed at men that features scantily-clad attractive women.
Finally, it's obviously completely inappropriate to make those comments at work. But I don't think it's sexist.
Oh, did I get that quote wrong? Let's play the tape:
> Why do all the waitresses in Hooters wear low-cut tops?
Huh. It sounds like you're saying there that, because women selected for their sex appeal by a restaurant which is only a step away from a strip club wear low-cut tops as part of their required work uniform, it is reasonable to assume that a professional developer who chooses to wear a low-cut top is doing so to attract male attention.
Which part did I get wrong?
> Can you expand on this a little?
Here is a picture of an infant eating:
Here is a picture of a procedure which detects cancer: http://www.sciencephoto.com/image/271974/530wm/M4150542-Mamm...
Here is a picture of some people who aren't wearing shirts:
Which of these pictures (if not all) causes you sexual arousal? Am I really so bizarre in my ability to look at these images, think "That is an uncovered female breast," and have my next thought not be "I would like to have sex with that person"? Because, you know, breasts (like the women who own them) don't exist for my sexual pleasure? Because context matters?
(For the record, my next thoughts, in order: "Awww!", "Oh man, that looks like it sucks," and "Wait, do I know that guy?")
Lastly, if you make inappropriate sexual comments about women, and not men, you are being sexist full stop. You are treating people differently, in a damaging way, solely on the basis of their sex. That is the definition of sexism. The justification is not relevant; in fact a lot of sexist behavior stems ultimately from insufficiently mediated sexual desire. (If you make inappropriate comments about both men and women equally, you are excused from the charge of sexism, though not from that of being a creep.)
Alright, look...those are pictures of people who are topless and are taken in non-sexual environments. Biologically speaking, there is nothing more sexual about those photographs than photographs of the same people wearing shirts.
Physiologically speaking, though, there is a difference. For most of us, chemicals in our brain respond instantaneously to those pictures, virtually shouting, "this is a naked woman". And its not just a male response, either (http://list.msu.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A3=ind9710B&L=AEJMC&E...). Nudity sells, and not because naked people look different. It's because our brains are tuned into paying attention to them, both by nature and by nurture.
The point of what I'm saying is that anyone wearing things that make you look good will ALSO make those who would otherwise be attracted to you pay more attention. It's not a choice, it is literally hard wired into our brains. Our brains respond chemically (http://jn.physiology.org/content/98/3/1374.abstract) to the pleasant, attractive things that we see. You have to understand that although you wear your jeans for yourself, anyone who is chemically predispositioned to do so will ALSO have their brains respond chemically.
This is no excuse for anyone who acts improperly in response to something that they see. We're all fully capable of controlling ourselves. Some of us have more practice in it than others, but society couldn't function if we couldn't control these reactions. The chemical response doesn't go away, though, it's just mitigated by other chemical responses.
We can (and most of us do) control our responses, but it doesn't get us anywhere to pretend that it doesn't happen. .
I'm sure there was a time in my adolescence when the mere appearance of a square inch of uncovered skin would have provoked a sudden involuntary orgasm like some Victorian gentleman, but I have seen enough breasts in enough contexts to realize that very rarely do they imply anything sexual.
For what it's worth, your sources do not support your point. They refer to sexual, erotic and romantic images, which I hope you would agree none of those pictures would be considered.
But if the article being posted is about the sexist treatment of a woman in the workplace, eventually the discussion will get to the absurd point where many of the men essentially claim that these biological sexual impulses literally don't even exist.
If treating people differently because of their gender is wrong, does it apply to both positive and negative treatment? Because judging by the comment count whenever this subject comes up, nothing seems to fire up the HN crowd more than sexual discrimination. Other more serious injustices in life never invoke this much passioned discussion.
I don't know if it's the case, but I imagine the more serious injustices are more black and white, where as sexism is almost all gray. One person's "I can't believe he said that" is another person's "You should have heard my daddy talk to my momma".
As a man I dress well because I want to be attractive. No, it doesn't mean women should feel free to whistle at me at work, but it's not outrageous to explore the boundaries and decision making process on this forum.
Look at the original quote: "Oop, Katie's got the low cut dress on today! I know where I'm sitting!" A clear statement of sexual interest, which Katie clearly did not wish to receive.
The hypothesis we are being asked to entertain is that she probably was wearing the low-cut dress because she wanted to attract male attention, but that this comment was in some other way offensive. That is, she wanted this guy to think that, just not say it. Because women are touchy, or something. What an absurdly insulting proposal!
Is it really so hard to imagine that she might want to dress in a way which is gratifying to her, without intending to be the object of men's sexual fantasies?
Suppose that Katie is a very large, very unattractive woman, and the meaning behind the statement isn't, "I'm going to sit where I can take advantage of the low cut dress", but "I'm going to sit as far away from her as possible", is it still sexist?
Sorry about the downvotes, it's a legitimate question to me.
Is it clearly not treating her the same as everyone else? Yes. But is it sexism?
It's pretty obvious if you take it apart a little.
You're singling out the one woman in the room, commenting on her physical characteristics, and saying that (presumably because of those physical attributes) you're going to sit next to her.
Now, why would you want to do that? Sit next to this person purely based on her gender and physical attractiveness?
Well, obviously you're not singling her out as the most expert person in the room, or anything else remotely related to your actual purpose for being there (I'm imagining this in a work environment).
Nope, you're sitting there to hit on her. You've already started, with the compliment. Possibly only very politely, but will she trust you to stop there? And will she now have to assume you're casting sidelong glances at her breasts when she points up at the whiteboard during the discussion?
And since this is a work situation (not a social one), she doesn't even have the option to excuse herself and go talk with other people if your advances are unwelcome.
Hope this helps make it a bit more clear.
Why would it make me uncomfortable? It would subtly remind everyone in the room, including me, that I'm different. And it would place an (unintended, I'm sure) emphasis on my physical attributes, which have nothing to do with my ability to design or program software.
One can imagine such comments causing Katie distress or stress. Employers have a legal duty (which has been tested in courts many times) to protect their employees from harm (and that includes stress) in the workplace.
It is quite possibly sexist; there's not enough information to say.
I didn't start wearing low-cut tops and dresses until I started breast-feeding because they make it easier to pull out your boobs.
Which is why I sometimes wish for a nudist society, exposing clothes can be much more distracting than none at all.
> Probably because I'm not fifteen, and I've seen boobs before.
I'm neither fifteen nor in dire need of breasts, and a mini skirt in summer can still be enough to keep me from thinking straight (I won't comment on it though). Some of us can't be fixed, looking down on me won't help.
I actually agree with both of you, you simply sound as if you had different women in mind all the time. There are girls in all environments that dress up with intentions. It sucks, they cause prejudice, but the OP really doesn't sound like it.
This has always sort of baffled me. That is, the fact that there has to be a specific law/rule allowing women to appear in public without some form of upper-body garment.
Obviously, regardless of gender, it's all about context. I wouldn't consider it appropriate for someone to get around without a shirt on while at work (I suppose there could be exceptions, eg. certain manual labour jobs where employees are comfortable shedding clothing in an effort to stay cool etc.).
But in a situation where its natural to take ones shirt off, such as swimming, I don't see why women shouldn't be allowed the same 'privilege' just because they may have visible deposits of fat and muscle on their chest.
I know there are all sorts of longstanding social preconceptions that a lot of people would hold on this sort of issue, but isn't that something most people would expect to change over time?
From the post:
> ... Start wearing sweaters, even though my breasts feel like they're boiling in there (yup, that's one reason women like low tops, guys)? ...
Comfort is her reason for wearing low cut tops. No need to speculate further than that.
To flip this around to me, I know that at times, I've done the bare minimum in the clothing department. Sometimes this means getting into my clubbing attire when I'm low on laundry. Do I own this shirt for a certain kind of attention? Yes. Am I looking for that attention at work? No, it's just getting close to laundry day
Intended on my part? No. (That was my point)
In a post-apocalyptic world where there aren't enough men, would you allow women to vote? They aren't as educated, surely doing this would bring about yet another apocalypse. Imagine who they'd vote for!
What would happen if a woman were voted into congress? Surely her sexual appeal would distract the entire group of men there, lowering the overall quality of work.
The problem is that this is a problem, and that people don't yet see it. Say, in time, it becomes OK for a woman to come into an office topless. Imagine the reaction of people then who hear of our behavior now. Now think of your reaction when you think of the historical debates about whether or not black people had souls, which made it OK to use them as slaves because they weren't really human.
Because they work in an industry that is primarily based on looks. Just like it's "okay" to stare at fashion models, it's "okay" to stare at waitresses at Hooters. Seeing as you don't work at Hooters (I'm guessing, ( ; ) then this doesn't apply here.
> In a post-apocolyptic world where you're the only person on earth, would you dress the same way you do now?
I'm not sure this hypothetical adds to the conversation. I also wouldn't dress the way I do now if the gender dynamics in Western culture were different. What's your point?
> Being "attractive" specifically refers to other peoples' attention and emotions towards you.
I would argue that being "attractive" is more a question of self-esteem than perception by others; see any interview with Megan Fox where she admits to not feeling attractive. It's not about how others feel about you, but about how you feel about yourself. How you feel about yourself is, partly, a product of the culture that contextualizes you, but that's more about the cultural aggregate than specific individuals (the hypothetical woman who is commenting about my great butt).
> I'm not saying that it's ok to leer at women, to verbally or physically harass them, etc. But it's incredibly ludicrous to me to think that someone dressed in a manner usually considered "provocative" probably did so without any intention, or that anyone responding to that mode of dress is automatically sexist.
Totally. I know you're not advocating horrible behavior, but sexism is not a flipped bit; it's a complex spectrum with multiple dimensions that is hard to quantify as "on" or "off". I tend to think that most people (me included) are sexist, and it's not categorically Bad and Evil, just something that I consider in my responses to certain situations and issues. It's okay to be sexist; it's not okay to make unwelcome remarks about a woman's appearance.
But you're asking the wrong question here: why is someone wearing a low-cut dress "provocative" at all? Provocative to whom? Why does how I dress necessarily have anything to do with anyone else? Every woman who wants to wear tight clothing wants to be looked at, otherwise they would wear burqas? It's incredibly ludicrous to me that you seem to be putting forth that supposition. It seems to lead to, "I'm sorry she was offended, but if she didn't want to be offended then she should've dressed differently." Which is a form of victim blaming: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victim_blaming
As to coming to work topless: no one is questioning whether or not being attracted to women is sexist. Of course not. But commenting about a female colleague's cleavage at work is sexist and demeaning. Be attracted all you want, fine. But don't cross the line.
We would not call it sexism, as that's reserved for unwanted attention between the sexes, usually male-to-female, but sometimes reversed... but it would still be just as wrong.
I think we don't have more cases like that because LGTM people are in a minority, but that doesn't mean that an LGTM person can't make unwelcome advances upon another person; why would it? Of course they can.
Can you name something inappropriate from one gender to another that isn't sexist? Consensual sex with your wife is appropriate. Getting slapped on the ass by your SO is appropriate. Getting fondled at a concert by a member of the opposite sex..? Did you want that to happen? You did? Great! Appropriate. You didn't? Inappropriate. Clean and simple.
What else do you feel is sexual harassment but not sexist? Where is your line?
That's harassment. Sexism is believing or acting as though one sex is intrinsically better than the other, as racism is the same with race. Sexism is not directly related to sexuality in the "having sex" sense, any more than racism has to do with sprinting.
The negative effects of this form of racism & sexism are fairly well documented.
Do you not think there are grey areas? Areas where a comment might seem harmless but end up insulting someone?
To me the only way addressing this is to speak up when it happens. If you don't then the grey area remains grey and it is likely a behavior to be repeated.
I'm a heterosexual man and I wear certain jeans because I
like to show off my butt. That's fine. But am I doing it
because I want to attract "female attention"? Not exactly.
This turns on a subtle point, but it's very important: I
wore them for me, not for anyone else. Feeling attractive
is not the same as receiving attention. I don't want to be
honked at, felt up, leered at, or even commented on. But I
do want to look good. Does that make sense?
And as for 'being commented on': the only reason you even know it looks good, is because people have commented on it, in whatever way.
Everything we do, everything, is infused with a desire to mate. You can try to deny that, but that doesn't make it go away. That is exactly what leads to the "lighten up" attitude: trying to defend you acting out on your desire to mate. The only way to reduce the influence of that desire is by acknowledging it and actively attempting to diminish its influence.
Personally, I would enjoy getting compliments about my ass. Being grabbed/honked at, not so much. But plain compliments, sure! Even at the workplace. At least, I believe that getting compliments beats not getting compliments, and I tend to believe that most people, men and women, would agree.
Otherwise, though, yeah, I like getting compliments about my hair, eyes, whatever, sure. But commenting about sexual characteristics, specifically, is a line that one shouldn't cross. Just like complimenting someone every single day for weeks on end is another line.
If the other person indicates that the compliments are welcome, then you're probably good. If they give no indication in any way, then they're probably not welcome.
Besides, a single compliment isn't the issue: a whole system of behaviors taken across a wide sample size of more than just one man, is.
And I'm not sure what your first paragraph means. 'Splain? ( =
But it misses the point. Context matters. In a utopian environment where women felt equally respected, sure, a sideways/slightly-inappropriate comment would be fine. In some workplaces today that might even be true. But it's not the norm, and in the real world people feel disrespected by this kind of treatment. Not everyone (but some, sure, as I'm sure someone will point out needlessly) likes the fact that their perfectly "normal" clothing choice can make them "attractive" in one context but the butt of a joke in another. Men, on the whole, don't deal with that.
Contrast: if you're the only man in a room of women, and the boss is a woman, would you dare speak up with your "nice dress" type comment? That's what it feels like to be on the downside of a power gap.
Please (please!) try this. And bring a camera. I suspect you'll be very surprised at the results.
See the point? These are critical details, and they change the moral calculus. You can't wave away an incident like this just because you can imagine something similar which wasn't a problem.
Like I said way up-thread: someone (you) is going to point out that not all women would react like Katie did. So what? Context matters!
Deal with them professionally. Judge them with only on performance, nothing else.
Or do you mean adult women?
A young or relatively young woman
A young woman of a specified kind or having a specified job
- a career girl
Women who mix socially or belong to a particular group, team, or profession
- I look forward to having lunch with the girls
Perhaps this is a language issue, but it's just as common for me to call my male friends 'boys' as my female friends 'girls', even though all are adults. Not sure what the issue here is.
There is a long history of society downplaying women's contributions in the workforce by using cutesy terms like "girls", and some of the definitions you've cited here reflect that. But just because a term like "career girl" was once in wide use doesn't mean that it's still appropriate today. (Or for that matter that it ever was: can you imagine anyone ever having used the term "career boy"?) Much like the ridiculous term "co-ed" for "woman who we decided to allow into college", its time has thankfully come and gone.
"Boy" vs "Girl" is an interesting one. It's not uncommon, as you pointed out, to call adult women "girl". However you rarely in the straight male world do people refer to adult men as "boy". However in the gay male world, sometimes "boy" is used (e.g. this collection of gay short films 'Boys on Film': http://www.amazon.co.uk/Boys-Film-Hard-Love-DVD/dp/B001L5JMQ... ). This shows that "boy" (and hence "girl") is a slightly sexualised way to talk about someone. Should you be using sexualised terms in a professional environment? No, so say "women".
(BTW: Just because your google search found some results that back up what you say, but might be a bit misogynistic doesn't mean google is right. "Jew Watch" still shows up above the fold if I search for "Jew", but it would be wrong of me to excuse anti-Semitism based on that reasoning)
Um, yes - geeks want objective rules which allow us to figure out that an activity is either legitimate or not. This principle is called the "rule of law".
Are you advocating that we should abandon the rule of law in cases of sexism?
Not all good behaviour can be written down as clear-cut rules. I sure wish you could, but you can't. It's a bit like the story of what happens if you try to measure programmer productivity: whatever measurement you use (eg. lines of code), someone will find a way to game the system. Yet people can still be "obviously" more productive even if we don't have a numerical way to prove it.
So, right. Imagine that you're a woman. You're told from a very young age that you have to watch what you wear, and where you wear it, and how you walk in it, how well-lit it is -- you don't want that sort of Attention. And wear high heels, they make you more attractive -- but don't wear high heels because they might be clumsy if you have to flee from Unwanted Attention.
The problem isn't the clothes. The problem is the Unwanted Attention. As a man, your defenses against sexual assault -- at least the ones that you're taught by the culture -- are chiefly, "don't go to jail." That's because that's the only major place you have to worry about Unwanted Attention. There are maybe some Bad Neighborhoods which you're asked to memorize and route around in addition.
"I know where I'm sitting!" paints women as the objects of your sexual indulgence, and commits to undressing them with your eyes. That's probably Unwanted Attention, but it is not the Problem.
The Problem is "Why do women wear low-cut dresses if not to attract male attention?" -- where you imply that the woman is ultimately responsible for the sad state of affairs culminating in the Unwanted Attention, rather than the males thus attendant and the culture thus pervasive.
"I can't wear anything too revealing, because I'm perceived as easy or slutty. I can't wear anything too modest, because it makes me seem prudish or not fun. I have to find that perfect middle ground -- between professional and cute. Every single day."
At work, as a male, I can't wear anything too casual because it's unprofessional or might mark me as a hipster, but I also can't suit up every day unless I want to be seen as a corporate drone. I have to find that perfect middle ground -- between professional and hip. Every single day.
Most of this pressure is self-inflicted. These problems won't go away until women stop listening to the idiotic fashion industry; if they don't, it's because their issues are less rational than they make them out to be.
I imagine that being marked as 'hipster' has very different consequences for you than being marked as a 'slut' would have.
Why do we have dress standards in the first place? Why not just wear a speedo to work if that's what you find comfortable?
The question is, how are you going to react to it?
Because one person dresses inappropriately, do you have to react to it like a 14-year-old boy? Are you going to comment on it in a way that implies that women are there for your personal entertainment? Are you, by opening your mouth, going to encourage others to get even cruder? And what about all the other women you work with, or will potentially work with (who probably resent the woman who overdoes the cleavage too)?
I understand that you feel that it's unrealistic to ban sexuality from the workplace. But it's not prudishness that is called for, but judgment. Consider that your actions take place in an existing context. In 2012, it doesn't take too many comments like that before your workplace or your open source project or whatever turns into a hostile space for women.
Now, I've worked on volunteer projects with people who knew each other really well, and things are considerably looser with regards to sexual humor.
The point is, you have to create an environment where women have a secure status. In the typical workplace, people barely know each other, and women are just barely holding onto whatever status they've earned. This probably means refraining from the more puerile jokes and observations.
P.S. In the interests of full disclosure, I've failed at this sometimes myself. I had a colleague who was a great programmer, but I was distracted by her body. She wore shapeless t-shirts covered in shapeless hoodies most of the time, in part, I'm sure, to hide this. But more's the pity that she basically has to dress in a tent in order to have her colleagues look her in the eye.
But more to the point, doesn't this suggest a desire on one hand to seem cute, feminine, and romantically attractive, but not to get too much attention? If this is the case, then are there bright lines at all in this area?
Power doesn't have to pervade the society, and it's a bit bizarre how it does. Only last year I joined up with an Ultimate club in Delft, after a childhood in the US. I hated sports in the US because it was cutthroat and antisocial. In the Netherlands there is a big difference, "what sport do you play?" is actually, like, an everyday question. You're expected to have one. And I liked Ultimate here, at least, because people were immediately giving me tips on how to throw cleaner, how to run better, how to stop faster, how to jump higher. It isn't about someone being Team Captain and you wondering whether you'll get Picked Last. I don't know where we learned that as children, but it was part of this bizarre Culture of Power.
And it's the same Power Culture which Joel Spolsky warns entrepreneurs about: don't try to dictate what your artists do; instead try to facilitate, let them express themselves as artists.
Power Culture might have "subtle advantages" as you say. It probably means that we can hire fewer teachers for larger classrooms, because kids are scared that they might be sent to The Principal's Office. But the social repercussions are pretty amazing. In a couple centuries I wonder whether this sort of culture will seem as foreign to them as owning slaves seems to us.
So, before there was "pwned" there was "ownership." You "owned at the game" rather than "owning the other players." The ownership was to entitle that your mastery of the game was so complete that you transcended mere "participation" in the game and instead cultivated "belonging."
Unfortunately, etymology is something of a footnote in real life.
If I heard you going on and on about how it's unfair that your expected to hid fear and put the safety of all the women-folk before your own, I wouldn't think you were a whiner, I'd think you have a damned screw loose.
Read what you wrote, man. We're not talking about the wilderness of Afghanistan, we're talking about a cube farm. Your macho baggage has no place in that setting. If you can't get rid of it, at least suppress it long enough to not burden your co-workers with it.
That is to say, if you tell a woman she looks good, it will be a compliment if she likes you, a sexist remark if she doesn't.
Whereas an ugly looking guy who makes eye contact or smiles at them is regarded as a creep or potential rapist.
In fact I remember reading somewhere that a persons physical attractiveness had a fairly significant affect on the likely verdict where they to be the defendant in a trial.
1. Be attractive.
2. Don't be unattractive.
It's naive but I did expect at least a little pragmatism from this group.
At the workplace, the label looser is just switched for the label creepy/sexist.
I guess because of a positive or negative feedback cycle.
You could look like a literal Ryan Gosling clone and I'd still be offended if you told me the second statement at work.
It's a factor, but lots of women have stories about attractive creeps.
this. nailed it. it depends way more on how she feels and what she thinks of you, than on whether the words/act itself is somehow inherently wrong or sexist. that doesn't mean it's wise to say things or do things like that in the workplace: it isn't. but based on decades of actual experience on this planet this, your observation, rings true to me.
Some people might consider scoop neck to be "low cut" (because the collar bones are visible--something generally not accepted/expected of men) while others might not call something "low cut" til cleavage is visible.
Now, a button-up shirt does a nice job of leaving space for your throat so you don't feel like you're choking, but in case you haven't noticed, it can be difficult these days to find button-up shirts for women that have all the buttons. It has become extremely common to manufacture women's blouses without the second button, or rather, with the second button roughly 6 inches below the first one. I suspect this is due to rules in schools and workplaces allowing for the top button to be left unbuttoned. That way, you're following the rule and showing some decolletage. I once went through every button-up blouse I could find at Target. I came away with having found one rack that had shirts with an upper-chest button. (Oh, and if you button all the buttons on one that's missing that upper-chest one, it just gapes open)
If the shirt itself is not quite wide enough to accommodate being well-endowed, a lower neckline can allow the fabric to move horizontally to better fit around the girth involved by opening up a bit wider. On the one hand, you could get a bigger size (if that's even available--there are limits), but if you've got a small waist, there's a tailoring problem for you. And if you've got shoulders that are narrow but a chest that isn't, that's a much more difficult tailoring problem.
Re: bar. I'd rather be asked "read any good books lately?" than told "that dress makes your boobs look good." But then I'm someone commenting on Hacker News, so that might be to be expected.
Re: your wife. I suspect there's a standing agreement with her regarding how you interact in terms of expressing your sexuality. I doubt you'd comment to a male coworker on how his trousers make his lower half look, but if you were married to a man, you might to him.
With regard to button-up shirts, tailoring is a much bigger problem for women's shirt than men's shirt. Ready-made men's shirts are measured in collar size in 1/2" increments and sleeve length in 2" increments. This allow for much better fit, as men's shoulder and chest measurements tend to correlate with these two numbers.
For women's shirts, you're at the whim of the mythical "sizes" running usually in increments of 2 from 0 to 14 (larger if you're at the "plus" section). Each size up is usually scaled up at all measurements: chest, shoulder, waist, collar, shirt length and sleeve length.
In other words, even though there's a much wider variety in women's body shapes than in men's, men's shirts' come in much finer increments in terms of sizing.
In addition to the problems you've describe, I have a few more gripes regarding button-up shirts:
There's the problem of large gaps opening up in between buttons for the well-endowed, thus offering others glimpses of your undergarment (read: bra). Opting for a larger size would make the shirt too loose ("not fit") at the shoulders.
Another common problem with button-up shirts for women is, they tend to run much shorter than men's shirts, as they are intended to be worn not tugged in. Depending on body shape and the cut of the bottom garment, certain movements (such as raising the entire arm) may expose skin along and possible above the waistline.
Unfortunately, button-up shirts are part of the de facto business casual attire. Depending on the physical environment, adding a vest, cardigan, or jacket for cover-up may not be suitable or desirable. (Female jackets tend to hang above the hip bones anyway, so they're not offering much help in the regard of protecting skin from being exposed.)
In other words, no, I don't want to expose my skin or cleavage in the office, but sometimes it's unavoidable.
Because it's more comfortable.
So, maybe it's possible that a woman might wear a low cut dress because it's more comfortable?
And no, I'm not presenting an absurd example as contrast. My hobbies are strength training and jiu jitsu. I have large arms. I also know what women with large breasts must feel like, because the first few times I wore short-sleeved polo shirts to work, I could literally watch people's eyes track my arms. I understood why - I had only previously worn long sleeve shirts, and my arms are larger than most, so they stand out. And I got no comments, but I would have felt uncomfortable if I had.
Or to air out his armpits !
Some companies choose to introduce uniforms...
I'm not saying that it's their fault, but there certainly are ways to prevent what they're experiencing. We men have to deal with another type of assault, physical assault. Most of my male friends were assaulted in one way or another (in clubs, on the street, ...) before the age of 20, in Slovenia. Yes, we could blame other people, but a matter of fact is that we are more likely targets than women, and it pays off to avoid situations that could result in physical violence.
Because there are a lot of things she could do. She could flap her arms and make chicken noises. She could read a newspaper. She could tazer somebody. She could fold everybody paper hats. There are pretty much an infinite number of things she could do, and we all know that. So when you focus on some small set of those, you're not just saying "could".
When you say, "Oh gosh, if only those women could learn from my youth and just avoid situations where people might be sexist (say, by staying home and making babies)," then you're shifting the burden of action from the culprit to the victim. It's bullshit. Everybody has the right to go to work without having to deal with sexual, sexist crap like this.
But suppose she followed your advice and wore only turtlenecks. Golly, then we've eliminated one symptom. But as she remarks in the article, she's just gone from "slut" to "ice queen". What do you recommend she wear to fix that? And what outfit keeps people from seeing her as the person to organize a potluck or take notes?
Of course it matters!
Would you say it's "complete account of my reasoning" if I wore t-shirts to work because they are comfortable?
But I wear a dress shirt and tie because my company is trying to project just that type of stuffy image. The tie is uncomfortable... but that's life.
The breast-comment in this story wasn't the appropriate way to tell her if she was dressing unprofessionally... but most of us sacrifice comfort to dress professionally every day we go to work.
Are you suggesting that she is an exception, and she should wear whatever is most comfortable?
Am I seeing this?
Are you saying that if she didn't want to hear inappropriate comments, she shouldn't have dressed that way?
If she wore a bikini to work, is it really fair to expect every guy to not say something? Now, that "something" should be closer to "you should change your outfit" than "I'd hit that", but still, the responsibility for the dress and generally accepted code of conduct falls on the woman in that case.
I don't see this stance as sexist because, as others have noted, we expect similar conduct from men.
How is it judged that a man's pants are too tight to be professional, or a woman's dress is too short, and what are the reasons? The reasons are sexual, and I might be wrong in this, but I would guess the line exists where people of either gender would begin commenting.
I think you might not be fully aware of the extent of body-related comments that women get. I know women with breasts of such a size that they ALWAYS get comments, regardless of what they're wearing.
We can, and I do. There are very different showing-chest expectations from us, we can even show our nipples in non-work public.
Why do women wear low-cut dresses if not to attract male attention (in the majority of cases)?
Because they think it looks good or is comfortable or is fashionable or they didn't have anything clean or their sister bought it for them and they are seeing them for lunch.
Have you heard of the Bechdel Test? It's a simple way of seeing gender bias in a movie: It has to have at least two women in it, Who talk to each other, About something other than a man.
By thinking the way a woman dresses is about men your comment shows the same bias.
Turn it around: why do men buy Ferraris if not attract female attention?
Shirts don't cause adrenaline responses like that by wearing them.
Many people think men choose a Ferrari to impress women. That just isn't the case.
Nor can one generalize why women wear anything.
So, great example!
Low cut dress can be functional (as described by Katie). Or maybe she's out for a date after work (in which case there's feminism is appropriate, encouraged, and even sometimes needed for the benefit of the relationship). Or she just like that dress or the way the dress looks on her (in much the same way some really rip guys love to wear tight tops).
Most women do realize when they wear low cut dresses, she will attract attention, both positive and negative. At the same time, it doesn't give her coworkers free rein to make comments like that -- the comment was made to other male in the room but was directed at and objectified her.
Women wear low cut dresses because they feel good in them, because they feel they look good in them. Showing off your breasts, if you consider them an attractive part of you, is like showing off your face, or arms, or legs. This question is like asking, "Why do women brush their hair, if not to attract male attention?" Feeling good gives you confidence, and that confidence occurs internally, not because a man can give you external validation of sexual appeal. (My cleavage may turn you on, but it doesn't turn me on, or make me feel sexual just because it's there.)
Women rarely get dressed with men in mind, and it's fascinating to me that men think otherwise.
And similarly, feeling good about oneself is not equivalent to feeling sexually attractive. And having someone point out my sexuality all day long, when it's not even on my mind, is extremely uncomfortable, invasive, and (for lack of a less cliched term, apologies in advance) objectifying.
Their concept of "looking good" is shaped by magazines and tv shows (still much more so that men, on average); and if you look at your average magazine, you'll see oozes of sex emanating from advertising and content. The concept of "looking good" in western society is equivalent to "looking sexy/desiderable to the opposite sex". Why would women's skirts emphasize one's ass otherwise? When in a suit/tailleur (pardon me, I'm not a tailor), it's among the most professional attires a woman can wear, and it's been sexualized to high heaven. Why? Because it makes women feel powerful. And why do they feel powerful? Because they can attract men, and that's what society tells them their power should be.
So whoever tells herself that she wants to look good "to feel better" is, unconsciously, accepting sexism in society almost as much as one who'd crack a joke about it; she's just doing at a much deeper level, one which women still refuse to deal with (it would mean dropping the whole "fashion" industry like a hot potato).
See, that's the problem. You're sexualizing a woman's ass. A woman doesn't automatically consider her ass to be something sexual. Straight men do. An ass is an ass, and the fact that a man finds my ass sexual is not my concern. Nor do I want to be told about it. But I do like how that skirt looks on my ass. For me. My comfort is the focus, not somebody else's hard-on.
I clearly don't deny there's sexism ingrained in most aspects of society, but fashion was not the greatest one to cite on your part. Most high fashion is where risks are taken to challenge what "sexy" (heterosexual man's version of sexy) is, and has less to do with being "attractive" and more about being "artistically beautiful." Does this turn you on? http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_YPLSyaja5vU/R7Xqwvpw1YI/AAAAAAAAAh...
And lastly, to say that caring about your appearance for self-confidence's sake is really just latent sexism, and that women are unthinking enough to not know they do everything for men anyway is... well, first silly, second, offensive, and third, incorrect. We really need to get away from men telling women that their behavior is "ingrained."
And, yes, if you make a sexually charged comment on a co-worker, it is sexist. Context matters.
It's none of your concern why a woman dresses the way she does. As long as she isn't violating company policy, she is under no obligation to justify her wardrobe to anyone else. And if she is violating company policy, that's between her and HR, not you.
Well since the quote essentially boils down to "damn look at dem titties" then yes it is very demeaning & disrespectful!
It's also sexist. Why? Because it's self-absorbed. Whoever spoke that quote wasn't thinking about how their words might make Katie feel in a room-full of people. "I'm a man I like titties and anyone else's thoughts and feelings don't matter." That's sexism in a nutshell: that the default and correct perspective is the male perspective. That anyone who doesn't hold this perspective just needs to "chill out".
I would say for the most part it's not all that conscious. We buy the dress if we like it. In some cases we might not buy it if it looks too revealing, or buy it because it's especially sexy, but for the most part dresses are cut to the style of the day and it has little to do with the intentions of the woman wearing them.
Personally I've started consciously looking for low-cut tops and dresses for the first time in my life, because they're easier to breastfeed in. Most of my dresses and tops are cut too high to do that easily so I need to expand my wardrobe. So sorry, all that cleavage is not for you, it's for my baby :).
So, I'm not going to agree or disagree with you, since I don't really know exactly what you're saying.
I will say this, though: there is professional attire for women. Generally speaking, this doesn't involve form-hugging clothing. A fitted women's dress shirt is not form-hugging, by the way.
Personally, I recognize that I have an unfortunate automatic physiological response to breasts. I've discussed this with female friends whom I've respected and liked strictly as friends. If exposed to low-cut tops, I find my eyes darting to them, particularly when I'm distracted or concentrating on some thought. If I were in a position where a well-endowed female coworker were wearing very snug or revealing clothing, I'm honestly not sure how I would handle the situation.
I have been in that situation years ago, and I remember it to this day. It didn't help that I was much younger then.
Anyway, I found it incredibly hard to concentrate on what she was saying, because I was concentrating on keeping my eyes away. It didn't help that she was absolutely gorgeous, well-endowed and was wearing a dress with a cleavage probably modeled after the Grand Canyon. Thankfully, she was not a coworker. But even worse, she was a potential client.
I don't want to be too quick to blame it on instinct, but it is there. I wonder if I were (proportionally) as well-endowed as she was, and wore tight shorts. Some female friends told me that they do look - but women seem to be more discreet, on average.
Is this sexism? Or just normal human behavior?
Sexism would be if your attraction influenced your professional behavior towards your prospective client in any way, negatively or positively.
As you hinted, being able to be less distracted by an attractive figure is a matter of self-mastery, which often comes more easily with maturity, and to some degree familiarity. But a modern gentleman knows to treat others as persons first, not as sexual beings, especially in a professional context.
You've been programmed to think this is bad, unhealthy or unnatural by people with an agenda. There's another school of thought that says it's ok, normal, natural, and healthy. Humans are hard-wired for sex and we've been having sex like rabbits for millions of years otherwise we wouldn't be here. There are many situations and places and modes where we pretend it doesn't exist, but it's a lie, at best a convenient intellectual abstraction in order to focus on productive matters. But it's always there, lurking. Again, for most healthy people it is anyway.
Now, if anything, I over-correct when I'm talking to someone who I find attractive and is wearing a very low cut shirt. Eyes. glued. to. eyes.
No I haven't. I don't think it's the least bit bad or unhealthy. I simply want to engage my friend as a friend, not glance at her tits every ten seconds. Performing physical actions that imply attraction would introduce a power balance that I don't want in a friendship.
Why would you make sexual comments at work? Making jokes is fine, commenting on clothes is fine, telling a joke involving sex is probably fine (depending on the joke...). Having a conversation (two-way) about sex is fine.
Making a specific comment about a colleague's sex appeal is inappropriate. I don't see how you can't see that someone might be offended by it.
I think "I can imagine myself saying" implies he thought it was "reasonable".
I certainly don't think that's reasonable think to say. That part was more like "Fuck, I could actually say something like this, and this is BAD.". It comes from teenage-and-trying-to-get-group-approval-me saying things before slightly-more-adult-and-trying-to-not-be-an-asshole-me has chance to suppress those thoughts or words.
I don't mean to imply in any way that was "reasonable", just something I could at first glance recognize as harmless and say, whereas when you just think about it for a second, it totally isn't and you shouldn't.
In that case the point I made is fairly moot, as it basically agrees with you in that it's a "BAD" thing to say.
Before I continue, how often have you said a line or phrase to a friend or someone you have had a long term relationship with (without defining that relationship) that could be viewed as "bad" out of context? I have seen blacks call each other the N word, people call each other homosexuals, all in their comfort zones of understanding that the other person was not saying anything to be offensive. It is called understanding each other.
She rants on about how "guys" think and how the "guys" push roles upon her. It has nothing to do with roles. Pot luck? There is a very good chance that no one wanted that job regardless of gender. I'm a programmer. I don't have time to do a pot luck. It doesn't matter if I am a man or woman, I am going to try to get out of it. You didn't and you got stuck with it.
I have said comments not unlike the one in the article to a woman before. I didn't do it because I felt beneath her, or that she was weaker, or didn't belong there. I knew her for a long time, and felt comfortable that she would not be offended, and that she would get a laugh about it. If she didn't like something I said, she would likely jab me in the gut or tell me to clean up my mouth, and I would oblige.
The problem is she never addressed the issue, and instead let it go even though it was eating her up inside to the point where it did serious damage to her career. Why? Because she caved in to her own assumptions and did not address it. The guy could be a complete douche, or he could have believed that he was giving her a compliment (albeit a lame one) about her dress and the effect it had on him. No one knows from what place his comment came from except for him and she didn't try to find out.
True to tell someone to "lighten up" is a remark that disallows someones point of view. That is horribly wrong. But it is wrong to force everyone to make assumptions about everyone else without discussing it with them. If someone steps over the line, it is your responsibility to address it to them. She did not do that. Instead she went on a blog and lambasted every male coder in the business. Strange. I find that horribly inappropriate.
Also, I misread that as "censor", my mistake.
No, it doesn't.
I can imagine myself saying all kinds patently disturbing and offensive things — things which, to a certainty, are not remotely "reasonable" — but I would never actually say, let alone mean, them.
By analogy, I can imagine pulling my Leatherman out of its sheath and sticking the blade between someone's ribs. Doesn't mean it's reasonable, or that I'd ever do it, especially not in jest.
At what point did we become okay with excluding sexuality from human lives, or a large portion of them -- the time we spend working? Sexuality is every bit as much a "human" endeavor as, say, eating -- and we don't (currently) say: never eat at work, work is for work only (despite the fact that food does separate people from each other, and accentuates differences).
Anyway, a random rambling, but I thought I'd share anyway...
I think the point where it happened was when we, collectively, noticed that people were exploiting professional power asymmetry for their own sexual gain. Often at the cost of another human's dignity and self-respect – not to mention career prospects.
However, the difference is that in those cases, it is always the woman's choice to participate in it. Since they are the marginalized demographic in this matter, the choice should be theirs to indicate what is and isn't acceptable commentary, discussion or behavior in the workplace.
Today's environment is one where it’s _men_ who overwhelmingly decide, by way of majority-reinforcement, what other people should consider to be acceptable or not.
It all comes down to marginalization: we don't marginalize or trivialize people—or their accomplishments—based on the fact that they eat. However, our society does tend to do those things to people based on their gender; specifically, to women based on their gender.
Once we eradicate the culture in which that happens, people can express themselves sexually more freely and without hesitation, in the safe and sound knowledge that doing so won't instantly label them in a certain way that would dramatically (in a negative way) impact their professional and/or social lives—or worse.
More here: http://www.amazon.com/Civilizing-Process-Sociogenetic-Psycho...
Eating doesn't affect anyone around you (though tuna sandwiches are definitely an issue to get HR involved in...) Sexuality, violence, religious conversion and the stench/filth of defecation affect people around you whether they want to deal with them or not. Ergo, it is rude to make "working" contingent on dealing with your literal or metaphorical shit.
Asking her to take notes (as in, not asking anyone else), though, is a completely different story. However, I believe that some women handle it in a not very effective way. I might be a sexist too! If you tell me in a nice way (simply saying that you think what is going on is wrong/unfair) I will reflect, and most likely change my behaviour in the future. However, if you attack me, or even worse, say nothing but rant on the internet, I will take it personally, as an attack on my identity, and I might refuse to change, out of principle.
What we're trying to do here is enlighten a certain aspect of our society that is wrong/unjust, and I believe that should be done by teaching people, not attacking them.
(I'm not saying that the OP definitely took the wrong path. She might have told her boss, and they did nothing different, they didn't learn. In that case, I see no better option but to attack, shame them...)
And yes, I do not want people at work to say such things about me, regardless of gender.
There are differing opinions here. Why is one opinion more justified than the other in the work place? For example: Why should I not be able to give a genuine complement about let say a woman's shoes? The work place is so filled with terror to the point where some companies policies are that a member of the same sex must be present to do simple coaching tasks. Is this not absolutely ridiculous?
Would you feel the same if someone said, "nice haircut" vs. "you look cute with your new haircut"? I highly doubt it. And further, try imagining it coming from differing genders, and differing sexualities.
One of the compliments objectifies, and that is why it doesn't belong in the workplace.
However, in the same social setting, when a man compliments a woman's appearance, the implied meaning is "I am pursuing you romantically." And this is fine in social settings, otherwise our species would die off.
But it's not fine in the work place. You feel that a woman at work giving you such a compliment is "harmless fun" because if it was a normal social situation, you would have the power: it's up to you to pursue. But for many women it is not "harmless fun" because it's similar to the social situation, and they feel romantically pursued, which is not okay at work.
 Please note I do not consider this a promise, so let's not confuse this with "asking for it." Human communication is subtle, and such implications are how consensual "courtship" happen. Of course, once there is a rejection, whatever implications one thought were there don't matter.
Why is it that straight guys have to state the obvious whenever they talk about other men? I tell ya, being a gay nerd, in a company full of "straight" nerds, is like being in the gym; watching the bodybuilders do cartwheels, trying to convince their "buds" they aren't gay for checking out that guy who walked by.
I hear borderline homophobic remarks all day. Like the ever popular, "Gay" or "That's gay". Which applies to practically anything that doesn't go their way ("Gay" has replaced the 80's term "weak").
I was in the Army for 10 years (Ranger for 6 of those years). I have a picture of me sitting on a tank, eating MRE's. Sometimes I turn it facing out. A gentle reminder to anyone walking into my office, who the "real" man is. ;)
What about if a man has a nice bulge in his pants? Will you compliment him on that too? Because a reference to a low cut top is a reference to what lies under the top, and I'm not talking biceps. The male equivalent would be a not so subtle compliment on his penis.
As a man who values fitness, I would be really freaked out if you, as a coworker, complimented my biceps.
If you merely asked about fitness, it would be fine. Commenting on my appearance (beyond, "hey, you have a piece of toilet paper stuck to your face") isn't what I consider appropriate to the workplace.
It was merely an example. I have, at various times, had a variety of substances accidentally adhered to my face, head, or clothing. Pointing out something which is obviously unintentionally out of place is much appreciated. Making value judgments on appearance is not.
One of the first jobs I worked was doing admin & tech support in a small office - full of women. Worst 6 months of my life, and my experience was much the same as this bloggers.
Which has really helped me avoid this sort of problematic behaviour now I am working in a mostly-male industry/workplace.
That's a very difficult sort of scenario to cope with. You're fresh from school where you adapt, rather than complain, to the environment. You have no experience of work, office politics or whether this is actually how it happens in the real world! You have no peers who understand your perspective.
And if you make a major scene? Everyone starts tiptoeing round you for fear of causing offence.
That, more than the comments themselves, is what is upsetting. The knowledge you can't actually get them to treat you as they treat each other.
BTW, you don't have a problem with posts like this, or if you do, you didn't state it clearly. From what I can tell, posts like this have a problem with you.
And I'd say the "person-first" rule goes for how to treat other men, too.
i'd write more but it's too tortuous on my iphone. if you you've got other questions or need advice, feel free to shoot me an email.
Not at work.
(Humanity is defined by emotions, particularly physical attraction. But it's also defined by rational thought; not doing whatever you think your emotions want you to do. So if you're in a meeting with some attractive coworkers, use your rational mind to keep your comments to yourself. There are lots of people on Earth and there will be other opportunities for reproduction.)
Also, who says that I want to work as a "programming drone" - why do you get to tell me what a professional has to be like? What if I don't like it? I am not arguing for the right to leer at breasts at work, but I don't like the other extreme of being a completely rational machine that you describe either. I am not a robot. (OK, I am a robot, but a very advanced biological one).
So while it sounds like good advice on the surface to not date colleagues, it just isn't realistic.
I am aware that many people will choose to misunderstand me. I am not saying sexism at work should be tolerated so that couples can form. I am saying that attraction at the workplace is real and people need help learning how to deal with it. The "leary guy" might have been sexist, or simply socially inept.
If the definition of sexism includes "acknowledging the existence of boobs" then there is no hope, though.
>If the definition of sexism includes "acknowledging the existence of boobs" then there is no hope, though.
"Hey, look at the boobs on our sole female co-worker!" is sexism. So I guess there's no hope.
Like you would talk to men. Simple.
"Oh come on, my grandma/dog/goldfish would write better code!!!"
This would be a totally acceptable jab among guys, yet saying this to a female coworker would immediately be misinterpreted as "woman are bad at coding" promptly followed by the full wrath of the HR gender equality team.
You don't have a solid grasp on male-to-male communication in the US workplace. Please keep in mind that perhaps your culture is different.
Cheeky insults, (which "my goldfish codes better than you" OBVIOUSLY is) are not attempts to "undermine your male colleague's confidence in their ability". If you think that is not the case, then you are obviously completely out of touch with male to male interaction in the US.
What I am going on about is that the "I want to stare at your tits guy" might not be sexist so much as simply inept at dealing with attraction and dating. Calling him a sexist jerk is not going to resolve the issue.
It is not excusing the behavior, but seeking understanding and solutions.
Of course sexist jerks also do exists and have to be dealt with in another way. Also, believe it or not, but if such things go on at a work place, it might make men feel uncomfortable, too. Personally I don't enjoy sexist jokes.
I grew up in a small, all-white community where jokes about blacks were common and accepted.
when I grew up and moved away, I learned how bad that was. so I stopped.
I don't ever, ever slip up, because I don't think that way any more.
"I try, I really try, but sometimes I forget myself."? No, you just THINK you are really trying.
If someone grew up in a racist environment, the goal is for them to stop thinking that way, period.
If someone grew up in an environment where they mistakenly believed it was always appropriate to verbally acknowledge your sexual attraction to someone, the goal is simply for them to get better at recognizing situations in which they need to self-censor.
There is no shame in being sexually attracted to women, but verbally acknowledging it is inappropriate in some situations.
But it's a load of BS. I have close relatives who grew up in that environment who are not racist at all. If you think for yourself, there is little chance of social pressures influencing your behavior - at the risk of ostracism, of course (hello High School!).
Regardless of past influences, I believe that we, as rational beings, can overcome any behavior w/ practice and effort. To not do so is a character flaw that should be worked on.
No pain, no gain.
Most male dominated fields of work behave like this - it's a reflection of subtle rules society that we're taught at a young age. We can try to patch it over but it might cut deeper than just culture, it maybe simply inherently biological the behavior of men around a single female.
If you find that you have difficulty doing this, then you are literally a part of the problem with our community that we are discussing, and you should be spending a non-trivial amount of your time learning to manage your disability.
And I mean that-- it's something that you grew up with, it's a problem, we're all here together to help you through it. But first you need to admit that it's something you have to fix.
That's because there is nothing wrong with you, and yet everyone around you is telling you you're a problem. Kinda like the OP feels at work.
Unfortunately those who can't get over the guilt you feel via this association, are far more likely to defend the same behaviour in others in order to make that feeling go away. This is only going to stop when we stop feeling guilty and choose to act differently.
If there's hope for you, there's hope for all of us.
Without endorsing any specific views on female vs male promiscuity, I don't see what's so bad about seeing a distinction between them. The fact is, men and women are different from each other, and male and female promiscuity are different phenomena.
You can substitute many other things in there, and it will make equally bad argument. 80 years ago one could similarly argue about black vs white people, and it wouldn't be considered wrong or racist back then.
It's just less obvious after years of cultural conditioning.
You might say things like this aren't a big deal, but it still serves as a concrete example of how male and female promiscuity are different from one another and affect people's lives differently -- and frankly it's far from the only one. It's silly to deny the subtleties of human sexuality in the name of some egalitarian ideal. By insisting on viewing women exactly the same as you would view men, you are discarding useful information about the world.
I'm having flashbacks now to the video on Reddit yesterday where the black female college student went psycho apeshit in class when the professor was lecturing about evolution. She seemed to think there was some kind of persecution going on involving evolution and black people, and became violently angry at both the professor and the other students, interpreting things seemingly 180 degrees opposite, almost hallucination-like, compared to everybody else. Compared to the sane, healthy, objective people. They recorded it on many cellphones too. The point I'm making, in relation to the OA, is that yes there is sexism and sometimes inappropriate things are said. But yes it is also true that sometimes some people are wacked in the mind and/or misinterpret things. And without really knowing the specific person directly or seeing the events directly with our own eyes, we can't really know which it is.
I'll just close with the observation that there are probably at least 10's of millions of Americans, if not 100 million plus, that believe the Christian God exists, lightning bolts and all, angry man in the clouds, all the miracles, etc. Some of those folks also work in offices and post on the web. Some program. Some are "scientists" even. So take everything you read with a dose of skepticism.
I'm also having flashbacks to all the times I've been asked to take notes in meetings. I'm pretty sure I'm male too.
So I guess what I'm saying is thanks.
Holly horror story!
Sadly I am not surprised to hear this, because I've heard many similar stories. And yet out of the very large number of male friends in the industry I have, including myself, none of us have ever or would ever do anything like that. The paradox here is answered by the fact that a tiny share of creeps will always be found in any sufficiently large set of humans. And the larger the set, the bigger the number of creeps.
Thus I think the only way to guarantee this kind of thing becomes part of the past is to radically increase the share of women in the industry.
Now, that doesn't prevent creeps from being creepy, but it does guarantee that the small number that they must be, can never be creepy to a large number of women.
This is kind of depressing as it basically assumes we can never completely get rid of creeps. But does anyone believe 100% proper behavior, from 100% of the people, 100% of the time is possible?
However, as members of that community today, you and I and our male friends can call out the creepy dudes making inappropriate remarks 100% of the time we hear them. Creating an environment where people feel comfortable doesn't have to mean getting rid of all bad actors; it can be enough to make it clear that bad actors are found universally unacceptable.
These people tend not to just be sexist; they bully their male workers as well - crude remarks for example, put downs, superior attitudes.
I once had a female (client) lean over the desk to me, with a low cut blouse, and say "My cleavage intimidates you doesn't it".
I suggest that, as this blogger noted, the minority of creeps & bullies aren't really the problem. You can deal with them a lot more easily by moving on, firing them, refusing their custom - etc.
The issue is the sort of subtle remarks that the people making them don't realise are upsetting. They are not unlike-able, unlike bullies, just a bit clueless.
And fixing this is not easy, because you might really get on with the guys in your office, just wish they'd stop commenting on your ass!
Also agree about side comments - it is not easy to stop those. That's why it is important to understand each of those individuals and find a way to deal with each one. No need to be a hardass to the person, just need to punish specific actions.
And the existence of that behavior is an obstacle to increasing the share of women in the industry.
What the hell?
How on earth did that happen, I really can't imagine why anyone would think that doing this could possibly have a positive income without having drunk a minimum of 5 beers.
There are two things that come to mind.
These companies are ones where shit floats so to speak and nothing good will come out of those for anybody.
They are also usually ones who feel unusually entitled to way too much of their workers' personal lives generally.
But then I wouldn't work for a company that insisted they wanted to read my personal email either and that's been happening more and more lately :-P
I'm intrigued. How the heck did that scene play out? How exactly do one produce an image of his ass in an interview. How come he had one taken in the first place. So many questions ..
Thank you for supporting your wife, thank you for teaching your daughter that she doesn't have to take this crap, and thank you for not being part of the problem in the first place.
During the interview, I was interrupted while answering a question with, "I think I have a tick." My brain immediately thinks, "He's on eBay and has just won a copy of The Tick." But then he swivels the monitor around to show me a flesh-colored rectangle with a round, red area in the middle of it. I'm pretty sure that while we were talking, he stuck the camera into the back of his trousers and took the picture, as I recall seeing a flash and him fiddling with connecting the camera. However, it was my first interview in a long time, and I was very nervous about returning to paid employment after 6 years as a stay-at-home-mom.
What did I do? I gave him instructions for how to remove it. After all, I am a mom.
So... I've been "in technology" for a long time. In middle school, I picked the locks to let myself into the computer lab. In high school, I was the only female student in CS (also trigonometry and pre-calc). In college, I was the only female ever in the computer lab. I studied audio engineering -- which is a great deal less friendly to women (or was) than IT. I have dealt with a lot of weird situations that would not have occurred if I were male. On the plus side, I've never had to wait in line for the toilet.
This is my opinion: shit is going to happen and you have to roll with it. Given your life experience and temperament, this may be challenging for you. But if you want something bad enough, you'll find a way to get it, no matter how much shit you have to step in on the way.
My observations: men harass each other with equal or greater tendency than their female peers. Myself, I have said things to my male co-workers that have caused them to make the "that was inappropriate" flinch. Also, we can't squelch biology, no matter how smart we are -- if there are boobs in view, his lizard brain is going to notice them.
My hypothesis: men are socialized to shrug it off or suck it up, and may even become desensitized to it after a while. Women are socialized differently. To be frank, I don't completely "get women," even though I am one. Two events in my life have forced me to interact with large and varied groups of women, first being motherhood and second being roller derby training. I somehow managed to offend some of these women, and I'm never quite sure how I do it. But once it happens... they pretty much avoid me like I'm diseased. Anyone, male or female, who reacts to something unsavory in this way is simply going to have a harder time getting by in business. Or anything else, for that matter. Curiously, women seem to be much, much better than men at ignoring their lizard brain. Might be nature, might be nurture, but it is a definite advantage.
If I had a dollar for every time someone has told me to lighten up (or, in the case of my mom, Erliechda!), I'd be driving a Veyron around my private island. And sometimes it does weigh pretty heavily on me that, no matter how hard I bust my ass, there is always going to be some person who wants to write me off for attributes I cannot control. But that's where you learn who your friends are, right? There is a long list of people in my life who have plenty of respect for me, ask me for advice on stuff and things, and treat me like a regular human being. I prefer to be thankful for those people than let the rest drag me down.
Katie, you get nothing but empathy from me for how you feel, despite how critical this post may sound. I have a son and a daughter. The world does treat them differently. Nobody has ever "taken me aside" to tell me I am "going to have trouble" with my son when he gets older. It's flat out offensive to have a teacher deride my baby girl for being outspoken and spunky. It is painful to see what criticism does to her self-esteem. When someone IWASJUSTs you, they are being twice rude. So this is what I told both my kids, "If you had a $20, would you give it to $BULLY_NAME?"
"No," they responded.
Well, if you wouldn't give someone a $20, then don't give them the power to hurt your feelings.
Which is fine. Our daughter will learn how to toughen up and roll with the punches from Erin, and to not take any of this shit from me, and hopefully synthesize that into the CEOship of some galactically huge company from which she will fund our retirement.
men harass each other with equal or greater tendency than their female peers...men are socialized to shrug it off or suck it up, and may even become desensitized to it after a while
I'd say that's pretty accurate - maybe shrugging off a little harassment is how we guys try to prove we're confident to each other.
edit: I haven't run into sexism yet (still a student, but a female in a male-dominated field) and I don't want to be the deer in the headlights when it happens for the first time. And it seems that it will happen, the way everyone talks about it.
Your legitimate options in this case are, as I understand it:
(a) Instantly acknowledge that you will never in a million years work for a team where this could happen and then passively coast through the rest of the interview and get out as fast as you can, and/or
(b) Document everything that happened and provide it to the manager of whoever interviewed you (in Erin's case: no such manager!) --- incidentally, having stuff like this happen in an interview creates a radioactive statutory liability which any employer with a general counsel will probably fire the interviewer over. or
(c) Out them publicly to take a stand. Be sure you're right.
Option (c) has a lot of benefits to the community; option (b) is the direct response that will have the most immediate impact to the situation; option (a) is (unfortunately) usually the most coldly rational.
Why? Because you would have beat his ass? Cause you would have shown him what happens when he comes on to your woman? You would have had an unkind word with him? Do you not believe your wife can handle herself?
Trying to bash down a gender role by reinforcing another is pretty silly.
The brainwashing gets us all. It's sad when it gets us while we're trying to be supportive. The proper expression is "I was horrified and angered by it," not "I will respond to this by aggressive behavior not that much unlike what the other dude did". And proper response to someone noticing it is, probably, "oh... um, I didn't think about it like that, thanks, sorry", not "but I had good intentions!!!"
He showed a naked picture of himself to her in a situation where the default balance of power was firmly in his favor. An interviewer blotting himself (if only using a photograph) in front of a potential peer or subordinate is an act of sexual aggression if I ever saw one, and you are claiming some sort of moral equivalence with reacting aggressively to it? You cannot be serious.
Amusingly, your statement "the brainwashing gets us all" was most appropriately applied to your own presumption that he would fit some male role when being uncomfortable with proximity and anger.
Maybe his response would be to call the interviewer's boss and describe the actions. Maybe his response would be to write a blog post and do all the SEO in the world to make sure it shows up #1 every time someone Googles the company in question. You are assuming that the reaction he wants to contain is punching the interviewer in the face - when he never says anything to that effect at all. There are plenty of possible actions that are not violent and are not morally equivalent to the interviewer but are still plenty regrettable.
I was horrified and angered by it, and I know very well that assholes who show their bare butt pictures in interviews are incorrigible bastards, and if I happen to meet one, I am afraid I won't be able to contain myself(not too sure I would want to), so it was for the best I wasn't around.
Yeah, sure, people like him that should be shunned, and preferably prosecuted. But, actually, one of the reasons they feel free to do things like that is the culture of domination that's not really hurt in any way by people making violent remarks about them.
This, more than the jokes and comments, is the meat of the problem. Inappropriate jokes can be much more easily addressed as soon as they happen - if you're in a meeting and your boss asks you to 'please pull up your blouse because your wonderful breasts are distracting everyone' you can much more easily address it right then and there.
But if your boss asks you to take notes, the first couple of times it happens, it could just as well be random (though it isn't, really). It is much harder to say 'no, not taking notes, you only want me to do that because I'm a woman' even when it's true. What's worse is that even when you do notice a pattern, it's harder to address than a rude remark. It's (a) hard to prove it was because of your sex as opposed to some other aspect of your personality ('maybe he thinks you're just good at organizing potlucks, sheesh' - 'you took notes that first time so well!') and (b) behavior is much harder to correct when you have to point out things that happened in the past. 'I take notes 50% of the time, in a group of 5' just doesn't seem to have the same effect on humans, especially in a society where intent is often judged above effect.
I'm not a woman, but this is what it seems to me, from what I've observed.
edit: I can't find the study I was looking for, but they had a group of people evaluate two sets of identical resumes, with female and male names, for 'competence' and 'likeability'. For males, competence was correlated with likeability, but for females it was anticorrelated, even though the resumes were identical. Less people will think you an 'ice queen' if you call out an inappropriate remark, but countering the above form of sexism seems far more difficult to do while preserving 'likeability' -- 'what's the big deal, I just asked her to take notes!' If anyone else knows where the study is, I would be grateful.
Of course, this may not be tempting, because you may be on the kind of team where you just know that, if you volunteer to do some thankless task, you'll be stuck with it forever. And that is an entirely different kind of problem. But it's a problem that should not be covered up by deploying sexism.
I'd rather we point out "sexist behavior" to help make it stop vs introduce an even more subtler sexist behavior
In your senario: You, as a man, aware that she as a women, can get treated differently, so you will then treat her differently based on that.
You see, you are still treating her differently, where ultimately, no one treats her differently.
Reminds me of this quote from Morgan Freeman in an interview
Wallace: Black History Month you find...
Freeman: You're going to relegate my history to a month?
Wallace: Oh, come on...
Freeman: What do you do with yours? Which month is White History Month?
Freeman: Come on, tell me.
Wallace: I'm Jewish.
Freeman: OK. Which month is Jewish History Month?
Wallace: There isn't one.
Freeman: Oh. Oh. Why not? Do you want one?
Wallace: No. No.
Freeman: Alright. I don't either. I don't want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.
Wallace: How are we going to get rid of racism...?
Freeman: Stop talking about it. I'm going to stop calling you a white man. And I'm going to ask you to stop calling me a black man. I know you as Mike Wallace. You know me as Morgan Freeman.
> You see, you are still treating her differently, where ultimately, no one treats her differently.
Actually, everyone is treating her differently. The problem isn't just that people see men and women differently. That's almost impossible to change in the short term. In the short term, all you can do is try to get people to treat each other fairly.
I've no opinion on whether or not "Black History Month" is a good idea or not. Maybe it's a piss-poor token effort. Maybe Freeman doesn't care, because people treat him fairly, as he's outrageously successful, but other African Americans don't get treated fairly unless people make a big deal about doing so (which they usually do, thanks to a huge amount of anti-black-discrimination sentiment ... Latinos aren't so lucky). I'm not an American. I don't even know what "Black History Month" is.
There's three things that should happen - everyone should try to treat everyone else fairly, people should stick up for groups of people who are treated unfairly (whether they are a member of that group or not), and people should try not to think of people as belonging to any particular group. But when a group is treated unfairly, if you don't think of them as a group (on occasion), you can't stick up for them.
What I'm saying is that your shouldn't primarily consider someone to be defined by their (race / gender / height / whatever), but should occasionally stop to think about whether people might be getting treated unfairly, and do something about it if they are.
I'd consider saying "maybe I should take notes, because it's not fair that the girl always seems to do it, and (name) is busy with her presentation right now".
a: It's appropriate to comment on a woman's cleavage at work
or b: that women can't be equally good software developers
PC is drivel. agreed. being respectful: definitely not.
It's true that people, observing just this one incident in isolation, might conclude that I was "treating her differently" because she was female. I can't help that. I, too, am stuck in the society we have, the one where people make assumptions like you have just made, and as you point out it's not productive to tell people not to assume such things, no more than if I asked them not to think of an elephant. If anyone asks why I "treated her differently" I'll say what I just said: Team members are team members, none of them should be stuck with the boring stuff all the time unless they really enjoy making tea.
Meanwhile, I used the rather clumsy phrase "as a man" not because I enjoy writing clumsily, nor as some sort of political statement, but just to get the mental picture clear: I'm a guy, who looks like a nerdy guy, and when I make tea I look like a nerdy guy making tea. I suppose I could have left that ambiguous, as I usually do online - hey, on the internet nobody needs to know that you're really a beagle who can cite SICP and make tea - but in a conversation that's essentially about the optics of an in-person social interaction I felt it was kind of important that we all try to envision an actual room, with an actual team, one member of which is a middle-aged guy who is stepping out to make some tea.
This has nothing to do with skin tone and everything to do with perception. Your feet follow your eyes.
EDIT: I'm definitely not saying that the subjective perceived differences in gender and race are real, or that bigotry and ignorance are cool.
Accepting differences is a good thing. However the magnitude of the perceived difference can make accepting it either easier or harder
At work we are all workers. We may be treated differently depending on our position within the company, because that is relevant to our job and duties. But how is it relevant and useful to treat employees or colleagues differently because they are this or that? Does it bring any more profit, productivity or anything positive at all?
We can't be looking at these differences all the time, because most of the time they do not matter at all within the context. This is what people don't get.
Everyone laughs, boss realizes what he's doing, Sarah is off the hook.
If she has the courage to display any disdain over your overtly sexism comment though, perhaps the boss would take (mental) note.
At the same time, the boss may not even be aware of the sexism in the initial request--he/she may rationalize the request/decision after-the-fact, even if it were made in a sexist light at a subconscious level. In that case, that comment may end up offending both the boss and Sarah.
(And yes, women in management sometimes are more sexist against female subordinates than male counterparts.)
If you follow up your comment with an apology and an offer to take notes, however, everyone will feel better.
I think I might say "yes, boss, because the possession of a penis renders one incapable of note taking, obviously" instead but that's more about the turn of phrase of my sense of humour than anything else.
Edit: to elaborate, corporations aren't concerned with being labeled as sexist. They are worried about being sued because of sexism, because it's one of the toughest kinds of corporate lawsuits to defend against, and one of the most lucrative kinds of lawsuits for the plaintiff. (IANAL though)
Edit: it's really sad that HN has such a devotion to using the word "girl" to describe women. It's flat-out demeaning, whether you want to admit it or not.
I never really considered that calling a woman a 'girl' was a way to demean or lower them in status (I do use the word on occasion). I think the key difference is that I would never address a woman as a girl ("Come here, girl") but I may refer to someone as a girl if she in her 20's or younger ("Hey, that girl dropped her college id, can you give it to her?) Or I might say "Do you want to see if any of the girls in accounting want to go to lunch?"
Is this really the bar for modern-day sexism?
Why can't you simply say "women"? What's the impediment? Why do you so cling to "girl"?
Now if we agree on that, then to make any absolute claim that calling a woman a "girl" is demeaning then we must either make some universal claim about the intent of all those who use the word or a universal claim about the reaction of all those that hear it. I think either of those claims might be overreaching. Or maybe I'm just setting the bar too high.
We obviously live in different parts of the world with different social expectations for language use. Beyond a certain point, arguing about when it is ok to say woman or girl is just pointless bickering over divergent cultural expectations and nothing more.
I respect your viewpoint, you have definitely made me think. I now consider myself a Level 3 misogynist (up from 1).
That is only the second thing that came to my mind.
The other "danger" is being the only guy to act like that, then looking like a desperate "white knight" to the brogrammer crowd. Which sucks, because these exist and can be terribly creepy, and that gets you onto the women's side of the sexism.
Not that it is a valid reason, of course.
Which I thought was politely volunteering whilst also publicly raising my bosses problematic behaviour - an educational experience.
I got glowering dagger stares from "Amy", and afterwards she told me she felt humiliated because I'd exposed her as a target of sexism, which made her feel like a failure.
Which is awful that it had come to that (and in retrospect I was an idiot...).
So; use this approach with caution!
Edit: though in my defence "Chris" did improve no end after that; giving"Amy" only her fair share of mundane tasks, etc.
This NewYorker article (which I found via Longform) about the trial of Dharun Ravi (over the completed suicide of Tyler Clementi) has a tiny snippet about that.
Your experience shows just how serious the problem is - people don't know or think they're being sexist; the target of that behaviour don't want to speak out because they're told to "just lighten up" or they don't want to appear "weak" and other people don't speak out because it feels awkward or not the right time or whatever.
And it's not just sexism; there's 'hetero normative' and racist and anti-disabled stuff going on all the time. And this anti-disability stuff is important for programmers - people on the Autistic spectrum (which covers Asperger's Syndrome) are covered by English Equalities laws, yet we see open mocking of people with Asperger's.
Don't overtly "defend" Amy. (Or Chuck, or any teamaker of any gender, for that matter.) Don't use the word "sexism", don't start doing math on how often each team member has been asked to make tea in the last two years, and don't otherwise call attention to your noble sacrifice (which, as you've seen, in an otherwise-mostly-male crowd serves to throw an uncomfortable spotlight on Amy). Say as little as possible. Just make tea. Try to win the initiative: If you start the job first, it can pre-empt argument over who is going to do it. Or if you lose the initiative, but Amy has interrupted her typing to start making the tea, say something like "hey, if you'd like to keep writing I'll make the tea today". (If she says no, don't press.)
If you inadvertently attract too much attention, you can make a joke about how much you enjoy tea. Quote some Hitchhiker's Guide or something. It's amazing how useful random whimsy can be.
Now, of course if you're always missing from the start of every key meeting because you're making tea the folks in the meeting may be liable to demote you in their minds. This is a sad but true fact of politics: Act like the doormat, and you'll become the doormat. There is a reason why badly-gelled teams tend to try and assign lousy jobs to the person with the weakest political position. So this might not be your final move in this game. But you may be in a better strategic position than Amy to negotiate the necessary change (which could be: rotating the tea-making role through the team, getting catered tea, moving an electric kettle into the corner of the conference room, or just "forgetting" to make the tea and seeing what happens: Maybe the team will settle on one of the above alternatives, or maybe it'll turn out that tea just isn't important enough after all to be worth the risk of introducing hierarchy into an otherwise egalitarian team.)
Things like But you may be in a better strategic position than Amy to negotiate the necessary change could certainly be considered sexist if voiced. What you are suggesting is much the same as what I did do - simply missing out the overt portion.
It has advantages; it probably saves people being put in awkward positions, on the spot. But it could take longer, and backfire on you personally. And theoretically (I suppose) it could solidify ones own even-more-subtle sexism.
This is why I struggle with situations of equality in general. I think the whole issue is a minefield where you are damned if you do, and damned if you don't. And any thought process will end up offending someone.
Ultimately the key is to do whatever you do for the right reasons. The wrong reasons are probably "because she cant stand up for herself" and the right reason is probably "because that doesn't seem right". With empathy and common sense applied in spades.
As you say; this is a lot easier to address in a cohesive environment. By my observation - if people are playing office politics the sexism is probably just one part of an overall game.
Trying to teach manners through the Internet is like trying to teach bicycling by correspondence course.
Yes, of course I wouldn't say that out loud, ever, except in a high-level meta-conversation about an imaginary office populated by imaginary people drinking imaginary tea. In the real world, I would ideally say nothing at all, except perhaps "I'm going to make some tea; would anyone like some?" And then there would be tea. Delicious tea.
I agree, with the action you mention in the last paragraph - that is the action I should have taken.
What I was questioning was the thought process behind that action, and arguing it was little different to my own, could also be seen as sexist, and is only "OK" by virtue of being not-overt :)
Mostly I was thinking aloud.
Now, coffee break.
(adjust word choice for the day 3 variant to an appropriate level for your team's social context)
I think that is much more likely the case.
The question is, should ErrantX be offended for other people? If he's offended, he should speak up. But being offended for other people implies they are also offended. And, if they aren't, sends the wrong signals.
It wasn't so much exposing her as being offended; she was put out by the treatment, but had gotten used to it over time. To the extent it didn't bother her any more (the more I tell this anecdote, the more awful it seems really!). When I raised it as an issue, publicly, it brought all of that back.
In addition it made her feel that everyone saw her as being targeted, and unable to cope with it (partly because we were so close, she imagined they saw her getting me to stand up for her where she could not). Whereas before she could think of it as a private upset between her and "Chris".
I never even thought of it in that context; "Chris" was doing something inappropriate, I felt that calling him on it would be a good way to resolve it for everyone.
What I missed is that it could affect "Amy" in unexpected ways. A private conversation with "Chris" would probably have been better...
So, yes, she blamed me. And herself. But only really in the heat of the moment - after the fact she was grateful, just wished I'd done it another way.
One thing she did say was that her initial reaction was that I was just as bad (sexist) because it looked like I saw her as unable to stand up for herself (which wasn't what my thought process was, I should add!). But after she realised that actually she hadn't stood up for herself on this issue. That blurs the line so much on terms like sexism.
So I learned; human social interaction is blooming complicated!
Luckily, you were close friends. This makes things much easier. This lends weight to my worry about sticking up for other people when they show no signs of bother. Should I have been offended for Amy? I don't know her. As you pointed out, if I did, that would be just as sexist.
Let's be clear here, I'd probably feel uncomfortable for the person being denigrated in such a manner. But what is my responsibility?
I mention this because all to often people are quick to say "Hey, I'd jump in to defend a person," and while well meaning, it's just not that easy. Even women can't agree on this (not that they should). On one hand, Amy was perfectly content and these things didn't bother her. On the other hand, in some manner of speaking, they are still wrong. The move Shallow Hal comes to mind here (to some extent, as ignorance isn't the key part here).
This leads me to my way of thinking. Unless it's out right obvious and offends me, I'm not going to rush to the defense of someone because I think they should be offended. However, I will support people who do come out and clearly state they are offended, and support them. If they accept the treatment (for example, always taking notes at the meeting) without a word, who am I to treat them like a defenseless child incapable of defending themselves.
Supporting the person after they've made it clear they aren't happy with the mistreatment, on the other hand, I think is fair and proper.
Some people might feel awkward raising an alarm that something bothers them. This is understandable. In some manner, we must encourage them without outright saying "Hey, doesn't it bother you that you are always asked to take notes? (Maybe that's acceptable if the relationship is more than a co-worker type)."
In the end, it's the best I can offer.
The underlying problem here is that we are taught (by our culture) that:
1. It is okay to be subtly sexist but even worst,
2. We're being bitchy (uncool) if we defend ourselves (I'd argue that it's part of our intense worship of "being cool" but that's another topic)
I think we would be in a better position to tackle these problems of subtle sexism if it was more socially accepted (and encouraged) to stand up for yourselves (especially for females to stand up for themselves).
A side note: I read once that when asked, females would attack a rapist who is raping their friend or sibling but would not attack when they are themselves being raped by the rapist.
I think this stems from the theory 2 above: that we are viewed as bitchy if defend ourselves, but we are praised if we defend someone else.
I don't know actually--apparently she had an idea of something she would be comfortable with to address it? I have some ideas for different approaches which I wrote down but then deleted because in the end it comes down to what she feels comfortable with. <-- this is actually not a male/female thing, but applicable in any social situation where you intend to stand up for someone getting the shitty end of a stick.
Anyway my point is, I'd almost always first discuss this with the person in question rather than speaking up in the heat of the moment. It's usually not appropriate, puts the person in a tight spot or a spot light and sometimes these things are better resolved at a different, quieter moment anyway. The exception to this (for me) would be when a remark is really offensive or not subtle at all (like the low-cut blouse remark in the article), simply because at that point it offends me as well, even if the person isn't even around because I shall not tolerate such toxic remarks in a place where I have to work.
 "Hey Jim, your fly is open! I KNOW WHERE I'M SITTING! :D wink"
What the OP wants here is to be respected for who she is and her accomplishments as an individual, so that is the best solution. My guess is that most women accept this sexism as a part of life and have a way to handle it, but evey once in a while it just crushes them.
The healthiest and most productive solution is to "give them the tools" to feel better about themselves and ignore the sexists of the world, by letting them see that there are good people out there who will treat them with respect and appreciate not only their efforts and accomplishments, but also their sacrifice and struggle. It is obviously very easy for a a woman to fall into the "traditional secretary" role, if someone put the effort to overcome and rise above, that effort should be appreciated.
If the boss asking her to take notes is demeaning, why not ask her to help you overcome some difficult coding problem.
In most situations, it really just boil down to being a mensch.
This may be even too subtle a message for a problem as severe as this one, but it at least signals that not everyone within the team will tolerate this behavior, without claims of sexism backed by little evidence.
My social life is just fine, thanks. I don't need a boss telling me who my friends should be.
Now, if we were forced to participate, that'd be another matter.
I don't want to be forced to eat food prepared by people who don't have food handlers' cards, and I don't want my coworkers to feel hurt because I don't want to eat what they cooked and left in their car.
Want to improve morale and do teambuilding? Get a cater, or go somewhere for lunch.
At least, that's what I understand pot luck to mean? I like them a lot btw, very American thing, so we don't do it often enough here, but my hummus is always appreciated ;-)
Edit: Question answered! The ability to read actually is an advantage! ;-)
Seeing the grandparent as the top voted comment is like HN saying 'hey, we know better, your problem is actually this'.
Which isn't much different from saying 'lighten up' - both amount to dismissing her feelings.
Judging by other comments here (and recent sexism issues in tech), it seems like her treatment isn't an isolated case.
For example in other sexism threads the ubiquitous Star Wars posters and stuff like that came up. Should Star Wars posters really be banned in programmers offices, just so that some more women programmers might feel more at home. I don't know...
This sort of thing is often in the eye of the offended though. Fat slob with a beer-belly and greasy hair glances at you - bleurgh, X is leering at you. Six-packed, chisel-chinned near-divine human that drives a Ferrari checks you out - phwoar.
>Should Star Wars posters really be banned //
Can anyone give a cogent argument as to how a film poster bearing fantasy sci-fi imagery is sexist aside from specific content like an image of a man with their top off that is intended to objectify them?
Had a new project manager/analyst join a few months ago, and he bakes a different cake for us each week. it's awesome. :)
At my previous workplace, it's usually the host who sends out meeting notes or action items if needed. Otherwise, the task falls into the hands of the project manager, if one is present in the meeting.
The problem is being viewed as nothing more than a note-taker, not the actual note-taking work.
Yes, I feel sorry for this woman.
However, I also feel sorry for all male programmers. A lot of male programmers I've met have extremely pent-up sexual drives. A lot of them do not feel comfortable with women or society.
The prototypical male programmer was extremely nerdy in adolescence, had minimal interaction with women, and sex life - forget it. Now they are working in a job where they can just do what they like - program - and a woman comes along with all those pheremones and everything. And yes he acts awkward and crazy because holy shit there is a WOMAN who does what he does.
I fucking hate all of this talk about "manchildren" and "brogrammers" and whatever else. Stop essentializing the problem. Stop the man hate. Fucking hell.
Do you really think the man who said:
"Oop, Katie's got the low cut dress on today! I know where I'm sitting!"
is a happy, mentally-healthy, well-adjusted human being? Hmmm? Where's the compassion for him?
Why is our reaction to superficial wrongdoing so fucking immediate and moralistic? As if he's not a person with his own problems?
I'm at a loss for words, this whole clusterfuck makes me so angry.
If you're experiencing this pushback from women in the profession as 'man hate' that's certainly your right. I view it more as listening to a professional colleague telling a story from her perspective. I'm not experiencing it as hate, more as hearing from a woman 'this is my perspective'.
Do you really think the man who said:
"Oop, Katie's got the low cut dress on today! I know where I'm sitting!"
is a happy, mentally-healthy, well-adjusted human being? Hmmm? Where's the compassion for him?
Perhaps he's a victim too - none of us know the full story and we can speculate until we're blue in the face. But wouldn't you agree that his actions are highly unprofessional, creepy, and personally discouraging to one particular woman, and part of a broader pattern of discouragement toward women in technology overall?
I'm at a loss for words, this whole clusterfuck makes me so angry.
So what do you recommend to fix the problem? Where will you direct all that energy that your anger has activated?
And why are they predominately male? Either-
A: Men, for some unknown reason, like programming better.
B: The sexist environment drives women away.
Whichever one it is, the problem will not resolve itself. For A, as long as men like it better, and there are more of them, women will be seen as outsiders.
For B, as long there are more men, some of whom are sexist, the women will be driven away and the ratio of m/f will stay the same.
Consider this thought experiment: if it is the case that there is a ton of interest by women in programming, but that interest is frustrated by the "star wars" factor, that would imply that there's a huge pool of untapped female programming power. Why hasn't an enterprising business person realized this and created the next facebook-killer or google-killer by assembling a team of all-female ninjas?
My first reaction to this experiment would be "Because they were frustrated before they had the chance to graduate with a CS degree".
And the response to that would be to examine what the rate of CS enrollment is at all-female universities, if such things (still) exist. (I don't know that data looks like yet. lazyweb, can you answer this for me?)
Well, there's more to it than that. Female participation was fairly high in the 70s, dropped precipitously through the 80s, 90s, and early 00s, and is only now kinda-sorta-maybe starting to recover.
The hidden factor in there is the Personal Computer revolution. Prior to it, men and women entered college on roughly even footing w.r.t. computer exposure in their life-to-date. Once the personal computer took off, though, a big gender (and race) disparity cropped up.
Boys who had their very own computer to play with in their formative pre-college years received it, on average, around the age of 14 (IIRC, I'll try to hunt the exact stats down later).
Girls and minorities didn't receive a computer of their own to use until much later (19 as recently as the early 00s, which is, critically, after most people decide what to major in).
Intro CS classes turned into highly intimidating environments where the males had significant computer experience and may well have spent several years programming already; girls were at a significant disadvantage and enrolment fell off fast as they switched to majors where they weren't starting off at a several year disadvantage versus their peers.
When I started my first year of CS at uni, I had almost no experience programming and I definitely felt intimidated by the (many) fellow students who already had 5+ years of experience.
During one of my first labs, I was told to write a toString method for a Java class. I could not understand why the signature had to say "String" twice. A TA spent half an hour trying to explain it to me and eventually gave up in desperation.
actually, my personal experience corroborates with that data. I'm a bit of an outlier, having switched to CS in my second year and never having written a line of code before then (my (male) classmates and coworkers are always shocked to learn of this, because they had all started programming at a much younger age).
Sure, the guy's actions are unprofessional (though I hate the term), and discouraging. I wouldn't say creepy. I really hate the term "creepy" because probably (and yeah, here I'm speculating) the guy has been called a creep his whole life. Probably he's even creepy. But shouldn't we feel sorry for such a person?
(United States) society has a really bad habit of locating blame on male citizens and not looking further for causes of their behavior. There are lots of examples of this, but a really blatant one is the current incarceration rate. We like to say "this person acted badly and they suck - I'm sure they have reasons - but they suck!" and stop the conversation there.
Like I said, I'm really sad that one of the effects of this big pile of sad men is that women are discouraged. But I'm also sad that they're sad - and that they engage in behaviors which make them more sad. For instance: unhealthy eating patterns, drug/alcohol abuse, gaming addictions, porn addictions, etc. I'm also sad that they're mean to other men - e.g. flamewars. I'm sad about a whole big bucket of things.
You're asking whether I'd classify his actions in a particular way (unprofessional, creepy, discouraging) and, for the most part, I would. The question (as you point out) is where to go from here? What do I do with all this anger?
One thing I'd like to do is fight back against the conditions that make the world shit for nerdy teenage boys. I'll take myself as a prototype here, but as a nerdy teenage boy:
1. Other teenage boys are mean to you
2. Other teenage girls are mean to you
3. Your teachers more or less hate you for being better than them at the subjects they teach
4. Your parents think of you as a failure because you're not dating/doing normal things
5. Society at large is disgusted with you (media portrays you as a creepy pervert, etc.)
I mean, let's keep things in perspective, here. This woman had a shitty run of things, but was she suffering? Really? I (and a lot of people I know) had to put up with 100x more intolerance and aggression on a daily basis from the time I was 10 until I was 18. From both genders. I was bullied. I was laughed at. I was scorned by family and teachers. Sorry if we came out a little malformed.
Hell, I'm not even bad at interacting with women, since my skin normalized and I had the luck of working at a big retail store where I had to interact with them a lot. I had girlfriends and such and now I'm married. Shit has more or less fixed itself, but it's not really my fault as such.
Yeah, so what to do? Let's create art which actively portrays the sex-starved teenage nerd boy as heroic, in his own way? Let's give him some love, as a society? Let's extol his virtues, maybe once? What support is given to these people, really?
The sick thing is that for every such nerdy guy I know who became successful (mostly the smart ones, and mostly as programmers) I know 5 who were pretty much crushed by the stress of all this and have never really recovered.
The reality is, in the situation under immediate discussion he's in the role of the victimizer and he's crossed the lines in the workplace. Is what he did illegal or even fireable? No to the first, and probably not to the second. Does it mean he should never be allowed to work in his field again? Hardly.
But is it reasonable for him to be required have a talk with HR about what's 'OK' and what's 'not OK' when dealing with colleagues? I think so. Gaining a better understanding of the way your communication lands on people is a very important step in maturity and growth. Better he should learn such a thing later, in the workplace, rather than not at all.
And you're right - maybe he has a past history that drives him to behave the way he did / does. Perhaps earlier in his life LCSCG was victimized too. Perhaps he has anger or resentment against the popular girls who laughed at him or the football players who dropped his books in the mud and pushed his face in it. I don't know. None of us do.
Maybe LCSCG, and others in similar situation, can get some kind of help - coaching or therapy or socialization - that helps him interact with others in a way that's more resourceful. I think that's a result that almost anyone would support.
Your analogy to a Zen monastery is a good one. For a lot of men (myself included), programming/chess/mathematics/etc. is an ESCAPE from women. I feel like what has happened in the past 10 years (note I'm not saying this is "wrong" - just that it's what happened) is that these monasteries have been invaded by women and that men have been acting very awkwardly.
Here's the real issue, I think - these men are acting AWKWARDLY. They are dealing with their emotions poorly. They are not good at dealing with their emotions, especially towards women. But when did they ever say that they were? Did we stop to think whether this is the reason that they went into a profession which (for a long time) was almost 100% male? To not have to deal with women and their emotions towards women? Do you think that a man who has trouble interacting with women in a relaxed social setting will be able to deal with them well in a professional setting?
The real pain for me is that this awkwardness is being recast as evil, sexism, etc. There's a lot of hate directed towards it, whereas what it needs (paradoxically) is love.
Secondly, you pass off these crass remarks by male programmers as mere awkwardness from poor social outcasts. How then do you classify the same type of remarks when made by, say, construction workers to attractive passers-by? Are they merely sad social outcasts, or are they brutes for taking advantage of their social setting to harass and demean women?
Women are harassed regularly both in and out of the workplace, and the responsibility needs to be on the harasser to change their behavior, not on the harassed to "find compassion".
Construction workers are basically social outcasts. They have low social and economic status. I am very sad for them and I don't think of them as "brutes" (which term is part of their oppression).
Don't get me wrong - I think of capitalism as more or less fundamentally oppressive. Pretty much everyone is being shat on by the system and we need to keep this in mind when we talk about justice and ethics. People are under stress. These problems are not easy to fix.
I'm really not saying that the harassed has to find compassion - I'm saying that we all do.
The issue here is that you can treat a single harasser as a problem to be fixed, but when "harassment" becomes a systematic/structural phenomenon you can't think about things in terms of changing individuals anymore. You have to start thinking about policy decisions and social movements. I'm merely saying that when the social movement takes place which tries to fix this problem, I hope it takes into account the idea that the people doing the 'wrong' are not brutes, evil, etc. but mostly sad and awkward.
In the last decade or two primary education has become a primarily female field even to that extend that male teachers (and teacher students) have chosen to leave the profession because they didn't feel at home in that environment any more. If you talk to them you'll hear stories about, basically, psychological war-fare among their female colleagues that they didn't want to get involved in but were forced into nonetheless. In these instances feeling the need to escape from women is quite natural.
What was that you were saying about men not being puppies?
It would be great if one of his colleagues would pull him aside, explain some things to him with a LART, and suggest that he get a therapist and an Ok Cupid account. But that's not obligatory, and is definitely not the problem of the person to whom he's being an ass.
While it's unfortunate that some people fail to develop appropriately and learn to interact in an appropriately professional manner in the workplace, I don't know if that means folks have to feel sorry for them any more than if they failed to learn the appropriate technical skills to do their job. Interacting appropriately with the opposite sex and other ethnicities, etc., is a reasonable expectation of someone who wants to work in a modern workplace (and I don't limit that to the office or technology jobs.)
It's not about excusing behavior, it's about talking about the reasons behind that behavior so that those reasons can be addressed properly. The proper way to address issues whose source is pain and suffering is compassion. Not "feeling sorry for" a person, but understanding that they too are suffering and including that understanding in your analysis of the situation. The point that I find very frustrating in all of this is that the suffering which causes "inexcusable behavior" is not being talked about. We're not talking about -why- men act in this way, except in flippant ways - calling them "manchildren," etc.
We're not talking about grossly inappropriate behavior here. We're really talking about behavior that's sufficiently in the margins that an otherwise "okay guy" might do it because they just don't understand why it's problematic, or they don't realize they're doing it. (As opposed to really blatant sexual harassment or misogyny, which is still common in lots of other industries.) It seems to me that the issue with most of what the OP relates is simply rooted in ignorance and/or insensitivity, rather than any kind of suppressed suffering.
Programing or any place in the world isn't some special place for poorly socialized men to hang out and ... what... hide? You know what would be good? Learning social rules and improving. Them maybe his life wouldn't suck and he could get a date. And you know what would help that? Being forced into social situations with women and being slapped when he steps out of line.
If you have a puppy and it pees on the floor, you don't feel sorry for it and lock it in the house so it can pee on the floor forever, you train it not to.
If we "just give up" on these men and leave them alone they will be miserable forever. If they are forced to learn (at a later age, you know what, all the rest of us learned this a long time ago) they maybe they can get on with their lives and not be miserable.
Men are not puppies, asshole.
You're right: men are not puppies. They're human beings who are capable of owning their actions and changing their behavior if it is unacceptable. I would also say that someone so fundamentally damaged as to be unable to restrain sexist or racist behaviors is not a valuable employee regardless of technical skill or contribution--but unable is not the same thing as unwilling, and I have a hunch that those who are actually "unable" are few.
Give me a fucking break.
Calling out negative behavior tends to be very effective.
If however you are interested in treating the cause, then I suggest you listen to what yelsgib has to say.
I'm saying that in this particular case a lot of the "negative behavior" stems from extreme internal pressures.
And do you realize that you just compared making an awkward joke to killing loads of people?
My point was that if we accept your argument, we must also accept the patently absurd (at least to me) argument that one must have compassion for Jeffrey Dahmer, and it doesn't sound as though you disagree.
But such an outcast ceases to be sympathetic the instant s/he makes someone else's life unpleasant. This isn't about "man hate"; this is about someone who made an offensive comment that made someone else uncomfortable. That's not OK, and we reasonably expect better socialization in our peers than this. If the person who made this remark is not a "happy, mentally-healthy, well-adjusted human being", then no matter how much compassion his condition might reasonably engender, he should get help.
Furthermore, by equating a lack of compassion for a man who is "not healthy" with "man hate", you implicitly claim that "men are naturally unhealthy". To me, this comes across as a greater denigration of men than any harsh reaction leveled at the oppressor.
Guys, want to know how you can help change these kinds of attitudes? When you see/hear another guy make these kinds of comments, pull them aside and have a talk. Maybe it's a gentle reminder of how hurtful and counterproductive these kinds of attitudes are, or maybe it's a forceful "I never want to hear that shit again" - depends on the type of personality you're dealing with. Regardless, you need to have the difficult conversations with friends or colleagues who act this way, because turning a blind eye and ignoring the problem doesn't help anyone.
I take a page from the Results Only Work Environment:
You are exactly correct in regards to top down. A leader, manager, boss, etc. should immediately send the message that inappropriate behavior is not tolerated.
Sirens and other things cause public shaming when someone breaks the build; there needs to be a public and team-based shaming for inappropriate behavior.
I've been through many of these discussions: sexism, racism, ageism, and so on. After receiving many a rhetorical punch in the nose, I have a simple rule: I don't do it, I don't approve of it being done, if I am in management I stop it. I also don't let people yank me around by the emotional heartstrings. I reserve moral outrage for things like millions of people starving around the world, or slavery, or hundreds of millions dying of disease. Others are certainly capable of being moved by whatever they desire, but I find more harm being done by actual people dying than by the compound personality flaws of millions of my fellow citizens.
I don't mean that to be insensitive. Like I said, I am in complete agreement that this goes on and it must stop. Immediately. I'm just saying from prior experience I find that discussions like this never tend to go anywhere productive.
I'm not a programmer and I don't know the specific environment that she described, but I'm a female motorcyclist and I've worked in lots of kitchens and a couple in molecular biology labs. I know the behavior and I've dealt with it. Men behave in curious ways when there's a low female/male ratio, but in my experience, half of it comes out of awkwardness or plain old stupidity on the other side. Some of the more honest comments on this thread testify to that.
The other half is intended to belittle. But seriously, this isn't just at work. This is walking down the street in the city. This is buying something in the store. This is sitting on the bus. And as much as it sucks, getting offended doesn't help.
If this sounds like a long winded "lighten up," please think of it more as a friendly "toughen up." It's the only way to signal the change that you want.
For reasons cultural or otherwise, men have a tendency to attempt to subtly dominate people they perceive as weaker. To some people, this seems almost like an instinct, and it's really fascinating how just subtly pushing back or ignoring it seems to stop people from doing it with you.
I don't know a lot about how this manifests itself towards women, but if you are a guy, the best solution is to just push back and perhaps actively study and notice the tricks guys use to achieve social dominance. As a formerly shy guy who was often at the receiving end of this kind of behavior, I think that a lot of these gender problems would even out if all women managed to subtly assert themselves a bit more. It would surprise me greatly if women were exempt from this stereotypical male behavior.
I don't want to generalize, but in my country/city/region/circle of friends/etc, I've found that, for instance, girls tend to talk about their sexual experiences in every detail imaginable, down to comments about their partners. Any attempt to do something to that level of detail among guys would likely be met with a "Whoa dude! Too much information!"
And that's just an example. Not sure if you can relate. In any case, the point is that I think that there will be issues unless the environment is balanced or 100% of the same sex.
For a lot of people, these things are subtle and hard to process. It takes time and repetition for them to understand and acknowledge the problem, let alone become part of the solution.
Sexism is taking generations to sort out, so it's unsurprising that we can't see a difference in the course of a single discussion. But I believe that without discussion, we'll see no progress at all.
It's also the case that fighting injustice and increasing awareness of societal boulders that need to be broken down might very well lead to larger change that results in less actual dying in the world. For instance: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missing_women_of_Asia
It was precisely from countless discussions like this that I began to see my sexism. Through patient, non-judgmental, and intelligent discourse, I started to see how I was trained by our society to see women differently, and how my often well-intentioned choices were hurting the people I care about.
I am really really grateful for discussions like this. Messy? Yes. Useless? Hell on.
If you're not in California, but you're running a business you may find it quite interesting, eg:
Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or
physical conduct of a sexual nature, when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or
implicitly affects a person’s employment or education, unreasonably interferes with a person’s
work or educational performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive working or
learning environment. ... This policy covers unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.
Incidentally, according to interpretations of US and CA law, it is OK to do things like (politely) ask a co-worker out on a date. But, if they say no, you are supposed to get the hint, and if you continue to ask, you're opening yourself up to charges of harassment.
From the training I took, my understanding is that if the low-cut dress comment or comments like it was repeated in the presence of a manager, the manager would have to act in some way. (A manager has a duty to not allow a "hostile work environment".)
Depending on the specifics of who was at the meeting, it does not matter that the person in the dress didn't mind, because it's not just about conduct a specific person finds unwelcome, it's about a hostile work environment.
Some people up-thread are more in the wrong about this than they seem to realize.
That's the essence of the problem I think. It's a big problem, but it's hard to do anything about it without being seen to be overreacting.
Yikes! What sort of a place was this, what sort of people was she working with? I've never seen/heard anything remotely like this.
It is sort of hard to generalize from such morons to the whole tech field.
Since managers tend to hire folks like themselves, it's really a symptom of dysfunctional management and an organization.
Thankfully there are absolutely places where this insanity doesn't occur. I don't know how to find that out prior to working there, however. :(
Try to think about what you'd do if you were in the room with a team member who made a comment like that. I know what I'd do, and I don't think it is an industry norm yet. We need to get there.
If it helps you to see it: think about what you'd do if a team member made a lighthearted racist joke in front of an African American team member. See how we actually do have the norm there? Let's just get it applied to the whole half of humanity having to deal with this stuff.
I don't think things like this are clear cut like you are saying. What if you were unemployed for 2 years and then got a new job?
And for an entrepreneur? Say for some reason your company isn't doing well. You go and pitch a big account that could be "the big break" (that digs you out of a hole). The decision maker says something offensive. How willing will you be to stand up at that time when you have something big to loose?
Of course this is all a matter of degree obviously. Some people will definitely shy away from doing the right thing in almost all cases while others will go to their death defending what they believe. Even if it makes them homeless.
I remember being in a situation years ago at a company in Silicon Valley where the head of marketing (who is very well known and respected and teaches now believe me you've heard of him) was very offensive, parental, basically a dick. And of course nobody said anything at the time to challenge him. He was a primadonna and even his superiors didn't challenge him.
Expecting women to bring him coffee, or demanding that they also serve as PAs? That I'd have to think about.
I'd like to think I'd refuse business from (or resign from a team that failed to refuse business from) anyone who exposed themselves to a job candidate. It's fair to point out that the question has never seriously been posed to me. I've drawn lines in other business situations, but haven't had to for sexism.
Second, these responses needn't be binary, you can signal a lot of antipathy with body language and conversational subtext. When the commenter is just clueless -- and a lot of these people are just that -- the hint that they're out of line is often all it takes.
I'm not saying settle for subtle when confrontational is called for. But subtle and quiet are frequently all that's needed.
So if she works a 9-5 schedule and pretty early means, say, before 10 -- does that mean that she's dealing with maybe 4 sexually inappropriate comments on average per day?
If we had a 50/50 split some women would never hear such comments, some would hear then extremely rarely, while the percentage of men making them would stay the same.
And can we ever hope to get 100% of any large group anywhere, to never make occasionally offensive remarks? The crux here really is that this type of offensive remarks have only one target - women, and that combined with the lop-sided sex ratio results in harassment.
This reminds me of growing up Asian in rural northern Appalachia. It also reminds me of discussions I've heard on local African American radio talk shows. There's this constant subtle pressure one feels, and it is the result of knowing one is subject to arbitrary disrespect coming from out of the woodwork. The fact that it's often "plausibly" deniable doesn't make it better.
Knowing that you have a target on you does have an effect. That it's fairly uncommon doesn't make it better, if it happens often enough that the possibility is always lurking in the background. It's easy to see how this could impact someone involved in creative activities.
And your math is off. Even if there was only one woman in tech anywhere, reducing 100% male interaction to 50% male interaction would only decrease the jerk count by a factor of two.
And we wouldn't reduce male interaction by 50%, we would increase female participation by hundreds of percents.
That way if someone is being a jerk, many people can all confirm he's being a jerk.
Indeed. Jerks like this often associate in groups. As a result, women sometimes find themselves in a bizarro social context where their inferiority is just a good joke and the resulting humiliation is considered something like a blow for truth and "good clean fun."
That way if someone is being a jerk, many people can all confirm he's being a jerk.
Since women are such a minority in tech, they are sometimes subject to this sort of mob scene. Unless you've been in those shoes, it would be difficult to understand.
I guess the best advice is when you find yourself in a situation like that, get the hell out. But even I as a top notch experienced white male coder can't change jobs at the drop of a hat.
I've worked in IT for years - usually as the only woman on the team - and I've never felt degraded or discriminated against for being female. Maybe slight prejudices in the beginning when the guys think I'm not as good as them, but I enjoy proving them wrong. There is banter, and sometimes it's not 100% HR approved, but I've never felt that it was mean spirited or intended to put me down. I've found that by and large, computer engineers are super-nice, funny, and respectful towards women.
The comment about the guy noticing her low-cut dress and wanting to sit near her... not entirely appropriate, but is this really bad enough to run to HR and complain? That said, I wouldn't feel comfortable drawing attention with my clothes, so I would never wear something low-cut. I find that a lightweight cotton dress shirt is more comfortable than a tight, low-cut top anyway. If someone asked me to arrange a pot-luck or bring them coffee, it would simply not be happening.
I'm on the East Coast though. Maybe all the disrespectful frat boy "brogrammers" are working on the West Coast?
a) buy a shirt 3 sizes bigger and look like a clown
b) spend a fortune on clothing designed specifically for the 'well endowed' woman OR
c) wear something I own that makes me comfortable - which may or may not be low cut but is bugger all to do with anyone else (and really, most of the time is not designed to be low cut but ends up being so because the material shifts)
Do any of these situations warrant me being commented on, criticised or jeered at? Should I suffer these comments for something that isn't my fault?
(And don't even get me started on how being a breastfeeding mum impacts on both the choices above AND the range and depth of comments I receive.)
I'm glad that you've never felt degraded or discriminated against for being female. That doesn't mean it should be ignored when it does happen. That doesn't mean it is somehow this woman's fault and that she needs to "lighten up".
To make such sweeping statements about the industry, I presume she was not happy at her job, changed jobs, and the same thing happened again, and again, to the point where she left the industry altogether, discouraged. Which is weird, given that I changed jobs often myself and never had such experiences.
Two sentences gave me the most pause. One being, "Which label do I want to be stuck with today? Ice Queen or Slut?" It makes me think this is more about herself than the people around her.
The other weird comment was that she loves coding and "spent thousands of dollars to go to conferences so I can learn more about it." All excellent IT people I know learn stuff hands-on by playing around with technologies and studying on their own. Maybe there are other reasons why she felt stuck doing inferior tasks. If you are crucial to the team's success, nobody treats you like the "secretary who we let on the server" or a personal assistant, regardless of your gender.
I hope that the discussion of this topic doesn't make men paranoid about saying anything around women, because the fun and banter is one of the things that makes working in IT so enjoyable.
I work on a small team - just over 20 people - with only four women.
Every single one is a hilarious, self-possessed, confident individual. All the men, myself included, treat them with respect... meaning, we tease the shit out of them.
To do otherwise would exclude them from the team. Have you ever seen a cohesive group that didn't joke around? A tiny fraction of the jabs traded by men are HR-approved... if we filtered that for the women who work with us, we would be treating them as if they're too weak or too sensitive to be a part of the group.
So instead, we treat them no differently than any other team member. If one of the other coders were to arrive unusually dressed up, I would absolutely comment on it, regardless of whether it's a suit or a dress, but one of the ladies would probably beat me to it. Frankly, the women push the HR line harder than any of us guys, and we love them for it.
If you find that people are constantly telling you to "lighten up," whether you're male or female, you shouldn't assume that the world is conspiring to put you down. You're probably just no fun to work with.
This is what most people do when things come with thousand strings attached.
I never talk to women unless and until it becomes completely unavoidable. And if it is needed, I just restrict to whatever minimal it would take to 'get the job done' for the moment.
I know about guys, you can tell anything to them. In fact in my team guys joking guys is so common, its considered abnormal if they don't joke.
But with women, you can never be sure, you don't even what offends and what not. So keep interactions to bare minimum.
My parent's generation moved us past overt sexism; our generation needs to move us past subtle sexism. Otherwise, we are still wasting a large part of our human potential.
Guys give each other small disparaging jabs all the time, be it the workplace or a party between friends, it's what we do to fit in; it's how our social groups work and what keeps them together.
I've never been female, so I don't know what it looks like from their perspective, but to me telling a lass to go back to the kitchen is on the same level as telling a guy he should stick to computers because he sure as hell sucks at talking to girls.
Telling a guy to stick to computers because he sucks at talking to girls when his job is to run and promote a female-targeted wedding convention is a little closer to the mark.
As a female, getting told "stick to computers, you suck at flirting" when you're technically-inclined is a lot less offensive than "go back to the kitchen" -- not to mention that the first is a jab related to observation of an individual (presumably there isn't a stereotype that all men suck at talking to women) rather than a jab related to your chromosomes. It's exacerbated by the fact it's highlighting "something here doesn't belong with the others~...".
What's the difference between this and the situation in the OP? The workplace factor is one thing, but the friends factor is a much bigger deal.
Clearly, the people slinging the barbs simply aren't close enough friends to have that kind of rapport with her (if they were, she'd be laughing about her friends being hilariously inappropriate, rather than citing examples of workplace harassment). The guys at work from these examples also seem to be socially clued-out enough that they may not even be aware that what they are doing is unwanted.
This is not a bad question. I would like to make several points here, and hope a woman commenter chimes in with first-hand perspective too.
First of all, the "guys joking and jabbing each other" thing is true. But it really isn't that simple of a social interaction. At the early "getting to know each other" stages, the punches are pulled a LOT, and the pairwise bits of acceptable jokes are slowly teased out. Each member of the group must be felt out for OK and Bad joke topics etc. Think about every male bonding comedy (or drama with comic relief) you've ever seen. The new guy is paling around with the group, and suddenly he makes fun of the dog, or the tattoo or someone's mom, suddenly the whole group is quiet and serious, and "oh you just don't go there, never make fun of gary's poodle". There are rules and boundaries to it, even in "everything goes" atmospheres. (exceptions being douche-fests like Jersey Shore... and look how those turn out)
Second, there is a lot of difference commonly found between the jokes towards majority "one of the guys" and women or minority "one of the guys". Sure, its funny for a core group member to yet again make a joke about how Isaac can't be trusted because he's a mexican thief, if a new person said that, s/he would be reamed for making that comment -- the trust of "just a joke" is an earned one. Same goes for "katie is just looking for a guy with that top" jokes. And sometimes, they would never ever be allowed, because the person joking is NOT cool with it, and that is OK. addition from original comment: And the only way the jokes are ever ok, is if the target owns that joke as a funny, not hurtful statement. Some people see humor in situations where they are fitting some mockable stereotype, or where they are see themselves in such contrast with the stereotype (and know the mocker also sees this and doesn't buy the stereotype anyway). If the target doesn't see it as humorous, it stops being a bonding jab, and starts being hurtful
Third, the contents of the jokes should mostly be neutral. I'm pretty sure Katie would be ok if you poked about the time she brought the server down. But, if you follow it with "thats why girls should stay off servers" it changes it, because you would never poke al with "thats why boys should not code". Again, it is the subtlety of bringing the extra factor into play that wouldn't otherwise be noted in "one of the guys" (e.g. gender, race, sexuality etc). I don't know katie, but my workplace jokes follow this pattern
its funny for a core group member to yet again make a
joke about how Isaac can't be trusted because he's a
Why is "go back to the kitchen" on the same level? My girlfriend can't cook and wants nothing to do with it, let alone the fact that the phrase has been a stereotype actively used to demean the gender for a very long time.
Ribbing someone by telling them to stick with something they're actually active in and good at is really on the same level as a gender-wide stereotype?
If you quite obviously don't share some obvious and dominant characteristic of a group, repeated reminders that You. Don't. Fit. In. are frustrating and demotivating, at best.
You do that enough times to someone who isn't your friend and that's bullying.
Now, I have a question for the women here — sometimes I’ll hear a woman make the joke about belonging in the kitchen. Do you have insight into why that might happen sometimes and what the best sort of response would be?
To know "what the best sort of the response would be," you'd have to know a lot about the person you're talking to and how they'll respond to your unsolicited advice, and no one on HN is going to be able to grant you that.
But then, I'm not too sympathetic to what strikes me as an arrogant desire to transform the primitive worldview of a thinking adult with your wet blanket nostrums. By all means intervene if someone's being demeaning to another person, but in the case of a woman making a kitchen joke, I doubt you're dealing with a neanderthal waiting to be shaken into the 21st century by sobering thoughts about how retrograde it is to even joke about such things.
Emotional fragility has got to be at an all-time high these days.
If they're doing it to be ironic (I know I have), then you can probably shrug it off. Many of us have learned to be subversively snarky to put off the ones above.
I wear long skirts all the time, and sometimes I cover my hair. So I must be traditionalist/conservative, right? No, I just don't like how jeans are all about objectifying my butt and also never fit right. Some of my coverings keep my hair nicely off the back of my neck in the summer, others let me have pretty flowy fabric (I like textiles). I'm pretty clearly not a booth babe with that skirt though, so maybe I'm a girlfriend? Oh wait, the shirt I'm wearing is from an Ubuntu Developer Summit. Hmm... Wait, but I'm knitting, back to the girlfriend idea, maybe? Oh nevermind, this is too confusing, how about talking instead of trying to guess?
I have noticed, btw, that a large portion of female developers knit or crochet. Maybe it's because knitting & crochet patterns look a lot like code, complete with for-loops and while-loops. Also, ya know, make a scarf, make a website, make a pie...make stuff!
And thanks for replying. I think I have mostly seen the subversive-snark variety and just kind of laughed and moved on, so that’s good to hear.
You can be friendly and still express disapproval.
Context does matter, women do have more latitude in making that kind of joke, but it still isn't something I like having reinforced (lots of people suck at context).
Why would they do it on-purpose/non-ironically/non-sarcastically?
I've also known women to do it thinking that it will help them fit in. To be one of the guys. It really sucks to be excluded.
Women can also behave badly just like men do. If you work in a sexist environment, you can pick up those attitudes and become tone-deaf. Maybe they don't realize how much it can hurt other women to reinforce that sort of idea.
Thankfully, I've never run into this in real life. I've always worked with coworkers respectful of each other, and I can't imagine tolerating that kind of sexism without any confrontation. One would think people would learn to interact—or rather, which interactions are harmful—with people of different genders at a younger age.
It may exist in every industry, but this is the one I've chosen, and this is where I can start to make a change.
Good! I think that's the right decision. I can't imagine what would cause the world to get better about this aside from women, on a global scale, making it very clear that it's not OK.
2. You'd be shocked how much better my environment would be if, when I expressed concern about something, I was not told to 'lighten up', but if my concern was treated as valid.
I think the people who pay attention to things like your blog post are the people who are already sympathetic.
It's like if you wrote a guide about "How To Not Be An Asshole", assholes would probably not read it.
"Katie, lighten up"
"Bob, stop being such a creepy fuck. It's unacceptable".
Women shouldn't have be the only ones calling out their peers for making othering comments - everyone can do that.
Until you feel that, you might empathize, but you can't relate. The easiest way to deal is to think about how you'd want your mother, sister, or spouse to be treated. If you wouldn't like it for them, don't ever stand by and do nothing when this stuff happens. Also, about losing a job or business...if you put a job or a client ahead of your ethics, it's time to do some self refactoring.
1) I think I always imagine everyone here as a man, unless they identify themselves otherwise or I notice their username suggests they're female, and
2) reading the female voices here really gave me the sense of HN as a much richer, more interesting community
The thing is, women (and queers) are fucking powerful, they're just powerful in a different way. Ironically, but not unsurprisingly, women are taught not to use this power as it's 'inappropriate.'
You see, men don't have a clue as to how group dynamics work. Women do and have been trained in this from childhood on as it is their 'arena' just as much as the sports field is ours.
When we enter the workforce however, suddenly 'fair' means fighting like it happens on the sports field, 'fair' means fighting the boys' fight.
In the workplace, open competitiveness and overt displays of hierarchical dominance (boy's game) are perfectly acceptable, but figuring out the motives of your enemy's friends, observing when he breaks them and subtly informing those friends about that in order to weaken his support base (girl's game) is considered 'nasty.'
When I finally accepted that this was bullshit, everything turned around for me.
Whenever someone did something like this to me, over the next few days several of his allies would get a quick visit from me with some nice small-talk and a little one-liner thrown in about how X hurt me by doing Y. Within days X would find himself somewhat more alienated, perhaps reprimanded slightly by one of his peers about Y, left to wonder what he did wrong.
Over time it was as if a subconscious message spread across the workfloor: "You'd better respect me. If you don't your life will become a lot harder and you'll have no idea how the fuck it happened."
Now for everyone who reads this and thinks my description of this is disgusting, please understand that I'm merely able to describe it this way as I've had the fairly unique perspective of having been a part of both 'worlds.' From a woman's perspective an in-depth analysis of mens' quest for dominance would sound equally messed up.
Just like very few men understand a woman's world, very few women understand a man's world.
TL;DR; Men and women establish hierarchies in different ways. Women have been taught their way is inappropriate in business. They should do it anyhow.
P.S. Funnily enough, after I started dating a girl and 'became straight,' the women on the floor suddenly started calling me out on this behavior and nudged me back into the 'male hierarchy.'
It is nasty. It's called passive-aggressiveness and it undermines honest communication in the workplace. It will make people unwilling to treat with you honestly. The fact that you think this form of behavior is more natural to women than men is actually quite sexist.
The male equivalent of what I described here would be when two managers shouting against each other in ever stronger terms that they are more important and have more authority than the other until one backs down.
Equally destructive I believe, but something you'd never see a woman engage in.
I ended up sounding vindictive though, probably because I am at some level.
It's hard to publicly talk about this and even harder to find the right constructive tone between the indignation, anger and resentment that (for me) have accompanied my non-standard gender identity.
And even though I don't know what to make of the large number of downvotes, I'm still glad I tried. :)
All gender generalizations are sexist? That doesn't make sense; there are generalizations that are true even if that population doesn't like those generalizations (ie: women are physically less capable than men) and in some situations it may be important to have them in mind.
What could be sexist is to speak out those generalizations in an environment where it could blur the qualities that are actually needed for the context (in this case her performance as a programmer) but not in places such as an open forum like this comment section.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. When Charles Dickens originally wrote Oliver Twist he included the character of Fagin, who a stereotypical 'evil Jew.' Many Jewish people were rightly offended and later when Dickens made some Jewish friends they explained to him why they found the character so offensive. Dickens took what they said to heart and removed direct reference to the character's Jewishness in later reprints. Imagine if Dicken's friends, instead of reasoning with him, spread rumors about him and turned the world against him. Instead of making him less of an anti-Semite it would have merely made him more paranoid, and more afraid of Jews than ever.
People who are forthright and reasonable gain respect, people who aggressive, either sneakily or openly, gain fear, but not respect. I respect you for being honest here and I hope you continue to be so, but understand that I could not possibly trust someone who behaved in the manner you describe.
I never consciously did something like the former although I knew I would have been able to do so and come out victorious in the same way some people know they can win a fist fight.
I did do the second example though and what's important to realize is that I can only say it in this way when looking back on it.
In the moment I just felt the need to share how Y hurt me with the people who for some inexplicable reason still supported X.
There is some axis of reactionary behaviours, with "passive-aggressiveness / indirectness" on the left, and "meanness / directness" on the right, and in general women are further to the left and men are further to the right.
Anyway, I wrote a post based partly off the things you have written and hope that you do not disagree with anything I have wrote. I'd love to hear your feedback? You can read it here:
The only minor quip is that it feels slightly odd to be called a beta when I felt closer to being the alpha-female, but I agree that it works for the purpose of the story. Probably just my pride talking ;)
Do you think that those thousands upon thousands of (male) political leaders who climbed to the very tops of their social hierarchies -- from Crassus to Clinton, over thousands of years -- got there by pure luck without understanding how group dynamics work? How to make and break alliances? How to inform on their competitors?
Open competitiveness and overt dominance won out in our culture because they worked, not because alternatives were unavailable to men. Those traits allow to create stable organizations which went on and conquered the world, often literally. There's nothing stopping men from mastering intrigue, it's just very destructive, much more so than competitiveness and dominance, even fistfights will damage the group less than constant shifting and mind games.
In that model intrigue is indeed the punishment, but care and support is the reward.
This might be constrained to just my experience in the gay community and my extrapolation to the female population might be incorrect.
All I know is that I eventually became strongly aware of a delicate and ever changing network of social ties every non-straight-male I knew was participating in and acutely aware of.
And yes, it's probably a very essential component of the skillset political leaders need to master to rise to the top.
I'd argue however that it only becomes a necessity to master at the top, whereas for most queers I know it's present regardless of political ambitions.
Analogously speaking--just because whites held social power over blacks by virtue of better education doesn't somehow mean education itself is an artifact of white supremacy, it means that lack of education is an artifact of oppression. Likewise, having to passive-aggressively gossip in the background isn't some kind of feminine power, it's an artifact of oppression against women preventing them from speaking and acting more openly. If women are going to be peers and equals to men in a professional workplace, they should act like it.
What you are forgetting however is that if you go further back in time men were hunters and women were gatherers. Women stayed around the camp and were free to chat and men went off to hunt and had to be silent.
I'm trying to make the point that part of this is probably genetically/hormonally engrained into the female psyche (it's probably what you have tweak to 'fix' people like me) and that part of what is holding women back in the workplace, especially in tech as compared to e.g. fashion, is that they are asked to leave this part of them behind.
'If women are going to be peers and equals to men in a professional workplace, they should act like it.'
Equals in what way?
Also, speaking as a bisexual myself, I'm kind of offended by your characterization of bisexuals, unless by "bisexual" you mean "intersexed" or "transgender" or something, which in itself is actually just as offensive. Being queer doesn't mean engaging in stereotypical, effeminate behaviors like the ones you're describing.
And you're right on the second part as well. Although I am bisexual, the term for what I'm referring to would be 'genderqueer' if I'm correct.
We went from a tight knit, supportive group to being watchful of what we say, wondering who's out to get us and generally having to "watch our backs". Loyalties were split, motives were changed and within a matter of weeks it was an incredibly poisonous atmosphere.
If you want to get ahead - be better than those you're competing against. Don't try to undermine them, it does get noticed and unfortunately - for a small personal gain you're causing a hell lot more damage without even realising.
I'd say the reason people find it "dirty" is the same reason dirty players get angry when they're fouled - they can't take what they dish out.
Of course, every workplace is different and I'm sure there are plenty of places where women don't have to deal with the bullshit described in this article. However, they are far from the norm. I can see why the OP would want to leave the industry rather than be the person constantly reporting people to HR and lecturing them about proper behavior. It may be the right thing to do, but it's also extremely uncomfortable and just as likely to create an even more hostile working environment than before.
If you find that people are consistently telling you to "lighten up," whether you're male or female, you shouldn't assume that the world is conspiring to put you down. You're probably just no fun to work with.
For the people making sexist comments, there are lots of interesting stories and points in there. But obviously you can't force people to read the book, and expect any difference!
However, it is very applicable for the OP also. Take for example this overview of one chapter:
How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment:
Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
Call attention to people's mistakes indirectly.
Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
Let the other person save face.
Praise every improvement.
Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
Make the other person happy about doing what you suggest.
If maturity and manners were important to investors, they would be screening for it. As far as I know, they are not.
Also the awkwardness she's talking about doesn't come only from having a big ego. It's from constantly saying a single asinine statement. The person saying it often doesn't mean for it to have the effect it does.
The first issue is the "you should take notes" mindset. This one is unequivocally wrong. The second issue is the "low cut blouse" remark, which I feel is wrong only by social convention.
Here's why the first issue is wrong: It implies that women don't belong in this line of work, that they can't do it effectively, and that they should get out. Factually wrong.
The second issue is wrong largely by social convention, I think. It's natural for men and women to be attracted to others in the work place. It's hard to avoid. That said, by social convention we're not supposed to talk about it. Talking about it makes you seem creepy since you're flouting social convention and if you're willing to do that, what else are you willing to do....?
However, if the underlying physiological response is not inappropriate (and I don't think it's fair to suggest that it's inappropriate -- it's how we're wired), then how could it be logically inappropriate to mention your feelings? I think our society has found that business proceeds best if we don't mention them and pretend we're not feeling them, but I could envision a culture along the lines of Radical Honesty where just bringing up how you feel isn't wrong.
So, keep the issues separate and treat each appropriately. Implying women aren't able to do tech work? Absolutely wrong. Stop it. Indicating that a woman is attractive? Realize it's inappropriate because of how our society determined we should interact at work, not because it's inherently immoral, but still don't do it because it might make her feel uncomfortable.
Fact is, I’ve experienced sexual harassment just as much from women as from men. Who does it, in a given situation, depends only on who’s in power. In the male-dominated tech industry, that means men. But most people like to make sexual comments and advances sometimes, when we feel we can. And, unfortunately, that often make others feel rightly uncomfortable.
It’s a sad paradox—one of the best ways to make the industry less hostile to women is to attract more women, to even the power balance. But women aren’t attracted to the industry because it’s so hostile in the first place.
I am glad I don't have to deal with things like the ones mentioned in the article, just wanted to chime in and say that most programming jobs suck anyway. So it seems possible to me that the expression of the suckiness apparently took on some sexist form, that is not to say that the male colleagues don't suffer through crap in the same job. It is definitely possible for male people to be in crappy jobs and having to look for something better.
So is the corollary of the article that all possible jobs for female programmers suck?
No? I didn't think so. Me neither. So what are you really arguing about here?
She pointed out a lot of sexist bullshit she had to deal with. The low-cut-dress thing was just one of them. Are you now a little more alert to the fact that what you might have thought was an innocuous joke actually made a teammate feel like they have a target on their back? I am! I thought to myself, "wow, I can imagine people I've worked with in the past who would say something like that; holy shit, I might have even laughed!". Maybe you too? Then she did you a favor by speaking up.
It'd be good if people would stop expecting the Magna Carta from posts like this.
Edit: maybe I can't relate because my tendency is to quit if I find myself in a job that I don't like. This has happened to me a lot of times already. Perhaps others are more in a "heck, I'll change this place to suit me" frame of mind. I never understood that notion, or perhaps I am just too pessimistic about the ability of "places" to change. I reckon if you don't like how company x operates, find a better job or start your own company so that YOU can define the rules.
Tell me, when was the last time someone sat next to you because "you were wearing tight trousers and they hoped they could see your junk"? How many men do you think experience that at work? Would you be OK with them telling you to lighten up if you took exception to it?
Nobody wants to see men's junk, but there are enough other ways that jobs can suck for men and women alike.
In the workplace? Not if they want to keep their job.
Seriously, in most industries nobody would blink twice if someone was fired on the spot for saying that they were going to sit across from a woman wearing a low-cut dress so that they could ogle her breasts.
IT has, comparatively, incredibly low standards of professional behaviour.
While I understand your answer may well be, "Leave the jokes at home, Mr. Colbert. I'm here to code and make a paycheck." I would be sad if my relationship with my coworkers couldn't handle, let alone thrive upon, humorous interactions.
While there are always those who don't know how to avoid crossing the lines of appropriateness; do you feel that most of your coworkers are doing so?
What irks me is when someone does something sexist, and I do speak up about it... and I'm told to 'lighten up'. If it was important enough for me to say something, then at least acknowledge that.
Most of my co-workers are awesome. They'd never dream of making the dress comment, or tell me to go get their coffee. But it doesn't have to be everyone. Even a few jerks can make an environment go from awesome to horrible.
A lot of confusion and conflict can happen when 1 person things a thing is a joke, and another person thinks the same thing is a sexist comment. This can be where the "lighten up" response can come from.
I would rather work in an office where the jokes are of the funny sort, rather than the makes-one-person-feel-miserable sort. I really don't think there's any overlap between funny jokes and sexist jokes.
Most if nor all of humor revolves around something bad happening to someone. That's what funny.
(In normal workplace setting women are actually shielded from that friendly fire because men don't feel as comfortable/can't predict what's OK and what's not)
You want jokes, you have to acquire certain skin thickness.
If you don't, then I don't want to work with you. Fun is fun.
But even within that context, there's a line between saying something funnily negative that the person can take and saying something that hurts them. If you've attempted a joke that fell flat because it was hurtful, then the problem isn't the target being too thin-skinned; the problem is you having poor judgment (or a taste for cruelty).
But I'd suggest that an alternative exists-- you can actually be hilarious without knocking other people down. I think that's a worthy goal.
Received autism is not a virtue. Some people seem to be honing their internal conflict and blaming it on people whose jokes (or anything, really) touched it accidentally.
A person without serious internal conflict would not be hurt by a mild nerd humor. Hate there isn't, just some reflection on the awkwardness of human existence.
"TCP implementations will follow a general principle of robustness: be conservative in what you do, be liberal in what you accept from others."
They didn't used to be shielded like this, because men didn't used to think "what women thought was OK and what's not" mattered. In the same way, "white" men used to feel universally entitled to make off-color comments about the silliness and inferiority of "non-whites". Now the power relationship has changed, and now there is some thought given to what's appropriate and what's not.
You want jokes, you have to acquire certain skin thickness. If you don't, then I don't want to work with you. Fun is fun.
"Skin thinness" has to do with a certain degree of wounding and the remnants of institutionalized injustice. Both the wounding and the echoes of the injustice in the culture might take some generations to completely fade away. That said, all people have fun. All people want to relax and be genuinely themselves with someone, sometime. Are you entitled to have fun with absolutely everyone in the particular way that you know? I'm sorry, but it might not even go as far as the small subset of your workplace.
"Fun is fun" is pretty naive. If one studies humor, one finds that it's mostly highly contextual and cultural. This is particularly true for what's acceptable between men and women. That's not some conspiracy to rain on your parade, it's just how things are in the world. Just get to know people first.
Hardly. That describes only the most ignoble, uninspired level of humor.
I would phrase it, "If everyone's humor had to be bland Disney G-rated fare, then a lot of fun would have been sucked out of our work environment."
For the people on the other side of the joke, it's not fun. From what Katie Cunningham writes, it's so unbearable that she's on the verge of leaving the profession she loves.
With that understanding of the situation, sexist jokes lose their humor, at least for me.
Where did I defend sexist humor?
I think that Katie Cunningham is putting up with some nonsense and she should take direct action.
My question to Katie was just regarding the line between humor and offense and how she drew a distinction?
She apparently didn't get offended and answered me quite frankly. There's really no need for you to jump in and mischaracterize my position.
Lots of white knights in this thread that she doesn't really seem to need to take care of her.
This is the line that made me think you were defending sexist humor: "I would be sad if my relationship with my coworkers couldn't handle, let alone thrive upon, humorous interactions."
Maybe you meant non-sexist humor that erroneously came across as sexist?
I'm so sure you are going to come back with some "blah blah politically correct blah blah" disingenuity, I will adress it now: No, it's not all about PC and rules and whatnot, it's about genuine respect. Making comments and jokes centered on a person which aren't about that person, but about their membership in a class is generally not cool. It's called othering (and sometimes objectification). Othering is exclusionary, and a good joke for the target (but sometimes a good joke to the in-crowd, it solidifies their superiority!). Basically most jokes are OK, if they don't hinge on "and that's why that group is inferior and different from us".
I'm going to be better at calling that shit out from now on.
If I were one of her male coworkers, and I had to watch that kind of behavior continually, I would quit. I want my coworkers to be able to do their jobs without being tormented.
Also, I think you're missing the distinction between sexual jokes and sexist jokes. There are plenty of funny sexual jokes. There are even plenty of sexist jokes that the joke-teller finds funny. That opinion is not shared by the butt of the joke, and that makes them crappy jokes.
There is a big difference underneath the surface, though on the surface, many such incidents look like just "joking around." The difference has to do with social distance. If you feel an off-color remark is appropriate for someone you barely know, then I hate to tell you, but you're on one end of an asymmetric power relationship, and the other party has the short end of it.
It used to be, back in the 50's, men in the US felt entitled to join conversations with and sit at the same table with a pair of young women they didn't know and had just met. That sort of thing is a clear indication of the uneven power relationship. To really understand, you need to be on the "short" end, and more, you need to understand what it's like growing up with that constantly in the environment.
Yes, often one doesn't have bad intentions. But I'm explaining it to you now. Just be honest with yourself about social distance and "kidding." If you're really self aware, you may start to realize there's been a difference in social distance between off-color remarks to women vs. others. (African Americans, perhaps?)
Unrelated to the thread, but isn't this how you get know people you've just met?
Of course, maybe I'm biased since I met my wife by simply going up and talking to her while she was waiting in line to purchase a ticket for a boat ride :-)
Sorry, but I must be expressing myself incorrectly. My understanding is that guys used to be entitled to just go up and sit with unaccompanied females in public. If there was asking, it was pretty perfunctory. (This is from a woman's commentary from a documentary about the 60's, about how consciousness changed from the 50's.) In some countries, it was customary for a guy to ask the already present male for permission, leaving the female out of the decision. (This is from my own knowledge of Irish traditional culture.)
Of course, maybe I'm biased since I met my wife by simply going up and talking to her while she was waiting in line to purchase a ticket for a boat ride
The question is, how much right of refusal did she have? How much presumption was involved on your part? I'm going to guess that she had a lot of latitude on the first part and there was little presumption. I'm going to hazard a guess that you would've been embarrassed, but taken her polite refusal, had things gone differently, but not been offended or felt the loss of something you were entitled to.
The tricky thing in all this, is that it looks fairly harmless on the surface, but it's still pretty corrosive in aggregate. Please don't fall into the trap of being offended because what you've done has a surface resemblance to subtle racism or sexism. No one is saying that you were being sexist because you met your wife in a line. When one gets rid of the overt forms of [X] one is generally left with [X] that resembles something else. (But if you are observant of the power relationships beneath the surface, there is a clear difference.)
I really wonder at the need to mischaracterize what I said above. Nowhere did I mention picking on anyone or engaging in humor at the expense of my coworkers.
Maybe you didn't realize you were battling a straw man. But I'm explaining it to you now. You're bringing a lot of your own preconceptions and baggage to the sub-thread off my post here that didn't say what you imply it said. It's right up there, go re-read it.
It's called having boundaries. You may reach into the pants of your lover but you damned sure aren't going to do that to a stranger or a coworker, right? Do most people have trouble keeping track of what things are appropriate in which contexts?
Around coworkers you act professionally. If you develop a friendship with your coworkers then you can change the way you act around those coworkers. If you become friends with a female coworker and she is ok with you making casually sexist jokes, then that's fine. But until you've crossed that friendship boundary then you should rightly feel inhibited to "make jokes" like that to a female coworker.
While I agree that you should be careful about knowing your audience and where the lines are, there are some people who are going to have all kinds of lines in unexpected places. Sometimes, those lines move. Last week, a wry "yo mamma" might have been an appropriate come-back to Jim. Today, you might really upset him with the same comment because his mother died the day before.
The only real solution with some folks is to never so much as crack a smile at them. They may take it the wrong way.
Guys like you are all like "it's just fun and we tease all the time" right up until another dude in the work force hits on you or makes a sex related comment about you, and then you freeze up, get awkward and generally hate it.
How would you feel if one of your male coworkers tried this stuff with you?
And do not even try to say its different because women are supposed to like men or something like that, it's 10 kinds of wrong. just don't.
The women I work with in IT have had incredibly adult jokes made about them and vice-versa, because it's known and comfortable. If it wasn't mutual, you should know to back off, because they aren't going to lighten up.
I haven't shared the OP's experience of software developers being oblivious to asymmetrical interactions. Most nerds I know are very good at this.
I guess that was racist humor. I just LOL'd, though. Maybe because I'm "crazy".
Do you think I should have brought it up with HR instead?
The line between tasteless and tasteful humor is blurry.
However, humor about race, gender, age, etc can all be hilarious, even in an office.
The thing is, we live in a legal environment where she probably could go to HR and get him moved or fired for saying this. And yet, some men are still sexist jerks to women in the workplace. This suggests that all the blog-posting and HN-comment-hand-wringing in the world won't make a bit of difference.
Don't lighten up—accept. When being able to fire a guy for commenting on a woman's dress doesn't even do the job, no amount of complaining will stop the behavior you deplore.
N.B. I expect this comment to be unpopular, which underscores my point. We (a) live in an environment where an essay like the OP gets upvoted and elicits sympathy from a bunch of mostly technical guys, (b) where women endure sexist comments from a bunch of mostly technical guys, and (c) a comment noting the contradiction inherent in (a) and (b) gets downvoted by a bunch of mostly technical guys. The problem is basically unfixable, at least by the suggested means; shooting the messenger won't help.
Guys make these comments either a) because they are irredeemable assholes, or b) they don't understand the harm they cause.
If they are permanent jerks, firing them can and will help. For everybody else, then discussion is useful.
There is no reason to accept this kind of bullshit, and I refuse to.
Your situation is slightly different. As a CTO, you have the power to prevent this behavior in your sphere of influence. But fixing the tech industry in general is beyond your reach.
You should also be aware that you face the other end of the cannon here. If a woman feels maltreated on your watch, you could be held liable even if you are not culpable. In a small startup, this could be enough to sink the ship. Perversely, this gives you an incentive not to hire women. Indeed, posts such as the OP also provide an incentive not to hire women. There's no defending boorish jerks, but beware of unintended consequences when you propose ways to punish them.
Fixing this problem in the tech industry may or may not be beyond my reach. We'll see. But I will try as long as I'm involved in software. Hopefully I will have made a difference. But if I don't, that's still ok, because then I won't have been one of those assholes who stands around ignoring (or profiting from) injustice. If that's "irrational", then fine, I'm happy to be "irrational".
And personally, I think that blog posts like this are absolutely a part of fixing the problem. Women's suffrage didn't happen because a bunch of old white men suddenly noticed the issue one day. It happened through an immense amount of communication, activism, and education. The original post is a fine contribution to that sort of activity.
I hope you're right. You're far more optimistic than I am. In particular, I've seen an awful lot of hand-wringing about this subject in the Ruby community over the past five years—most of it similar in content and tone to the OP—and it doesn't seem to be having any effect.
But that progress has come through continuous effort, not from people saying, "Oh, honey, you should just accept that you can't vote. You'll never change it, so it's not rational to try."
Just out of curiosity, if you went back in time to early America, would you rally some slaves together and tell them all not to put up with the shit from their owners? Would you call them cowards for not all trying to run away? Or would you tell them to "hang in there, things will get better"?
Also, are you seriously saying that you'd tell folks who will live their entire lives and die as slaves to just "hang in there"?
Sure you would, buddy. Just like you're out there beating up the people who are oppressing the original poster, like fucking batman.
> Also, are you seriously saying that you'd tell folks who will live their entire lives and die as slaves to just "hang in there"?
Yeah, I would. Because if you have any foresight, you can see that its a transitional period, and is unsustainable, and is in the process of changing. I can help more people alive than I can dead for smuggling a few slaves out.
My point was that it's pretty far fetched for anyone to believe InclinedPlane would risk his life saving slaves when he won't even risk his career trying to legally torpedo the original poster's workplace. It's posturing, nothing more.
Because all of the other Germans who didn't agree with what was happening just accepted it and went along.
Are we done here?
That's not why Schindler didn't save all the jews. The point was risk analysis.
> Are we done here?
Unless you want to inject yourself between my reply to another poster again, yes. Feel free to see yourself out.
You're asking someone to learn to live with being bullied and to accept discrimination. And through this endorsement of their behaviour you contribute to the problem.
You are a horrible person.
Also, I'm not accusing Katie of cowardice.
Were they? I'd bet that everything you've ever read or seen about slavery was produced by abolitionists and their intellectual descendants. Perhaps this might slightly color your views on the subject.
By the way, before you call me a horrible person again, please read carefully. Nothing in the above paragraph implies an endorsement of slavery.
If you'd like to direct me to where I can read a more balanced view of the history of slavery I would be pleased to read it.
The West Indies As They Are (1824) by Rev. Richard Bickell. It was written about slavery in Jamaica, where conditions were almost certainly worse than in the American South. http://books.google.com/books?id=Y4QZYM7MOUcC&printsec=t...
South-Side View of Slavery (1854) by Nehemiah Adams, a Unitarian minister and abolitionist. http://books.google.com/books?id=sCg7P2c3W5MC&printsec=t...
American Negro Slavery (1918) by Ulrich Phillips. http://books.google.com/books?id=7E1_n7O9KvIC&printsec=t...
The attitudes and actions of certain people made someone's job so bad that they quit the industry. I am appalled by that, and I strongly disagree that they should have just put up with it. I don't think her leaving the industry signals acceptance; merely that she's been bullied out of it. I think this essay (I also disagree that it's "whiny") may, in some small way, help other people become aware of sexist behaviour.
I'm in academia, where the use-mention distinction isn't recognized where sexual innuendo is concerned. To be on the safe side, I take the attitude that even non-interacting, space-like separated particles at opposite ends of the universe could be accused of sexually harassing each other--and probably are.
In media studies there's the idea of the circle of consensus (everyone agrees with the notion that slavery and rape and child abuse are bad) and outside of that is the area of legitimate controversy. ("Does Keynesian economics actually work?" "should states mandate that people wear motorcycle helmets?" whatever). Outside of that is the lunatic fringe ("Show me the birth certificate!" or "Dick Cheney was a Hitler Youth")
It seems that in this community, the statement "yeah, maybe these chicks really should just lighten up" is outside the area of legitimate controversy. As it should be.
Do you think that potentially firing someone for making such a comment is part of a reasonable consensus? Or is it something about which reasonable people can disagree?
As far as firing goes? I personally wouldn't fire someone for the first bullshit sexist remark, but I would make it perfectly clear that the next bullshit sexist comment would be the last one. I am not sure where the reasonable consensus is around that issue. I personally care more about the victim than the perpetrator.
Clearly the author is hesitant to report it because of that outcome.
Bukowski put it best: "The Shoelace"
Attention my fellow men: Just STFU unless you are reading stupid jokes from a bad sitcom script before a camera for TV.
EDIT>> I'm not saying that it's ok she's treated like this, but you can't change everyones behavior. It takes lifetimes. In the meantime, if you want to have a healthy mind and continue to be around that kind of behavior, you have to grow a thicker skin.
Your "hopefully that won't come across as sexist" bit, by the way, belittles the concern. It's not just her concern; it's my concern too, and you've belittled it. Thanks, internet message board guy.
Sorry, I'm a little tired today, could you rephrase this so it's easier to tell if you're being sarcastic? (serious question)
The problem is that is also the response with the worst outcome for the field in general.
So, what I'm saying is, she's taking a hit (for instance, by being told to "stop victimizing herself" and to just work harder) in order to stand up against this stuff.
And I'm also saying that as a husband and the father of a little girl who could god-help-me end up in this field, she's standing up for my family too. And so I personally have an issue with belittling her for doing that.
You put a little smiley face after your comment because you thought it was amusing. It's not funny.
That's the beauty of humor: different things are funny to different people. I'll send you an email when I'm going to start catering my comments to you and your sensibilities :)
I'm sorry if you feel that way. Someone "getting the shaft" is a common phrase. When I typed it, I realized that it had obvious masculine connotations, so I thought I'd point that out with a smiley face. The rest of my response should make it more than obvious that I took her concern and health seriously.
It doesn't, unfortunately. That's the problem with mixed signals: they're mixed.
For the record, if you realize ahead of time that a word or saying will have an unintentional double meaning in a context that you don't want, find another way of saying it.
Now, re-read the post. You'll see that the poster doesn't have a thin skin; they're just sharing something that happens all the time.
The blatant stuff is, perhaps, easier to deal with because you can let off steam and have a rant. It's the gradual drip drip drip of every day comments - comments that your colleagues don't get, and the only reason they don't get them is because they are male - that just wears you down.
UK Comedian Josie Long has a good talk about it here:
I don't get the idea that these are weak people, or oversensitive, or they have weak skins. I get the impression that they've just had enough.
(I hope you see that I've tried to engage your argument and not just attack you. Personally, I really dislike the idea of telling people that "jerks are out there and it'll take years to change them so sorry, deal with it.)
At the same time, the realist side of me knows that people take a long time to change, and in the meantime, I'm going to be the one that has to deal with it.
Edit in reply: Exactly how are these not all the same: “Hang in there,” “lighten up,” “change your perspective”?
"Hang in there" - common phrase of support. Have you seriously never heard of this?
"lighten up" - dismissive, which I didn't say.
"change your perspective" - Helpful advice for many situations people have to endure unjustly. If you've never been in a situation like that, be glad. If you are, and you cannot change it easily, changing your perspective works.
You're trying way too hard to villainize me, to the point of erring on the side rashness.
EDIT >> removed ad-hominem. Sorry, I slipped!
All these changes happened because people said, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more!"
Incidentally, daenz is also correct. Albeit with a little addition to what he says:
"There is no changing everyones behaviour in a matter of days."
Which means that daenz's suggestion is the "best" (as in "highest gain") solution in the short run. It is not incompatible with simultaneously trying to change people's behaviour in the long run.
Seeing the change in your lifetime does not mean the entire process occurred in your lifetime. How many lifetimes is it taking for women, gays, and black people to become treated as equals, and we're still not there. Like I said, it takes lifetimes.
I'm not saying don't fight discrimination. I'm saying she should consider her health. Unless she wants to be a full-time martyr and campaign for this cause, then by all means, she should give herself 1000%. But if she doesn't, she's going to need to focus on your health in the face of this alleged behavior, and that includes not letting herself get worked up to an unhealthy level if she can help it. But by all means, continue the fight.
It's a game theory thing, isn't it? Fighting is cooperating, and lightening up is defecting, and the payoff for cooperating takes years or decades and only happens when enough people ooperate to make change.
> Seeing the change in your lifetime does not mean the entire process occurred in your lifetime.
When did slavery start in america, the 1600s?, and when was interracial marriage legalized, 45 years ago? That is the timeline of change for african americans. Just because you see the end of something in your lifetime, it does not mean the process also started in your lifetime.
Behave however you like outside the work environment.
But if you behave in a sexist or racist way in the work environment you can expect to be gone. Gone. Period.
Stop blaming the victim.
First of all, stop putting words in my mouth. This villainization of everyone who doesn't instantly white-knight is insane.
> But if you behave in a sexist or racist way in the work environment you can expect to be gone. Gone. Period.
Great, maybe you should run the company she works at. Or maybe you should put your money where your mouth is and go try to stir up a lawsuit for her. Or you can just posture and puff up your chest in the comments.
Perhaps it's just that many guys are so disorganized that it really makes sense for the woman in the group to take notes etc.
Assuming that, because she's a woman, she'd be better suited to note-taking is the definition of sexism.
I work (part time, not IT) in an environment where it's perfectly OK to generalize and joke about how men are assholes or idiots. I'm no writer, and I'm not about to attempt writing a post about the situation. I've been around enough that I can shrug it off at the end of the day, but in the moment it's beyond annoying and approaching degrading.
Joking about men being idiots is sexist (or misandrist), but I'm beginning to wonder whether the unfairness consists in excluding one half of the population of the working environments in which this assessment is commonly made. OK just kidding, "lighten up." (I hate that phrase.)
These problems also exist in the boardroom and some have pointed out that it takes 3 women at the table in order for the rest of the room to treat them fairly. If it's just one, she's sidelined. If it's two, then they're seen as just teaming up with each other, but three makes them legitimate in the eyes of the rest of the group. Perhaps larger groups of developers can make sure to have at least 3 women on the team to help eliminate issues.
From my own experience of work, cultural norms and popular issues, although only the smallest of samples, I'd say that (younger) Swedes have a much better handle on the balance of respect and gender roles than their peers in FR or the UK (England, specifically). Even the most subtle attempt at sexism is picked up on to a degree where it is unacceptable to at least publicly chance a remark of this kind in the workplace or in the media. Why this is I can only guess.
Prevalent (older) attitudes may account for the continued pay discrepancy between men and women and all that this reflects, but I'd say the Swedes have a very much less subtly-offensive 'working atmosphere' than those I've been part of elsewhere.
Also troubling is the question of 'women/babies/employment', but that's a whole other can of worms; just as a parting shot - men also leave poorly managed jobs when something better in life is offered to them, at least you get up to 9 months warning with women.
Sometimes the odd jibe is actually amusing. Of course when the jibe has been heard a hundred times before it never is.
I have a stutter and the amount of crap I have had over the years is rediculous. It isn't people taking the piss, I am used to that. Its people being 'kind'. People assuming I cannot do something or wouldn't want to do something on account of my speech. People being 'protective' or finishing sentences...
The outride rudeness of people is easy to confront and challenge. It is the subtle stuff which is very difficult to deal with. Often people genuinely do not understand that they have done something wrong. They were just asking someone to take notes and you have become the defacto note taker... whats wrong with that?
I have always thought the best thing to do is stand your ground but if you do that every time you get a reputation of being a stickler and being less approachable. The trouble is finding the right balance between letting the odd thing slide without just leaving yourself open to taking crap.
I feel for Katie and think it is a shame that she has been effectively forced out doing she something she enjoys by the ignorance of others.
What it really means is that they can't empathise.
For them it's no big deal... so therefore, as far as they see it, it is no big deal.
If someone truly thinks another person is taking something too seriously, and really feels that something should be said about it, then the non-patronising thing to do would be to try and explain it to the other person.
Don't let everyone else dictate your life.
One day I had a pretty watch on, and a male coworker said "That's such a come-hither watch". He was one of the most intelligent people I'd met, and it was painful to hear that come from him. I made an exception and tried to tell him that one might wear something pretty simply because they liked wearing it but I don't believe I got my point across.
I don't think it's a reason to quit though. Everyone suffers from several disadvantages that others might not know about. For example, the guy above once complained that some american universities (like purdue university) prefer women candidates to improve their sex ratio, and that it's unfair.
I don't want to tell you to stoically put up with this problem, but that's what I try to do.
Making objectifying comments in the workplace is wrong, no two ways about it. But because I don't have your context, this one jumped out at me as "could be interpreted in many ways". I'm curious if I can cajole a bit more context out of you? (because I've made my share of innocently-intended comments resulting in a situation going horribly awry, so I'm always looking to improve my appropriateness radar).
Specifically, do you think it was A) an innocent/clueless comment, B) a "testing the waters" comment as a prelude to hitting on you, or C) outright hitting on you?
A) Do you think he was just complimenting you on the watch? Particularly, I wonder because he made the comment about a thing, not about you. I.e., consider the difference between "that's a sexy skirt" and "you have a sexy ass". The later is clearly objectifying, but the former could be interpreted innocently or offensively, because its a comment about an object (although even the former is pretty risky -- you'd have to be very close friends with the person and be sure they'd understand your intent to feel safe making such a remark).
B) Or perhaps he was "testing the waters"? I've notice that being labelled a "creep" actually has more to do with whether your attraction is unrequited, than whether the action was objectively creepy, and a "testing the waters" approach is one way to try and avoid being the office creepster. Unless of course even testing the waters is creepster material (I hope not...).
C) or was he just flat-out being a slime ball?
Dear Y-combinator community, you have been caught red-handed @ 17:50 in this video at Startup School http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9m9vPAlb_0&t=17m50s
Would you laugh if it were a male speaking? I kind of wish people would, then men might know the feeling of what it's like. Can you imagine if this happened to you?
This isn't PG's fault. It's the idiots in the audience. You can have a high-IQ, make brilliant stuff and still be a sexist asshole.
I'm a male, and I hate this stuff, because my it's my friends that are the ones that are affected by this behaviour.
I feel like there's a huge gulf between second and third wave feminists. Modern ones would find the above comment empowering, you only react in this way if you've been brought up in a society and culture that demeans female sexuality and teaches you that low cut dresses implies slutiness and so on.
The guy doesn't want her to wrap herself in sweaters only because he wants to continue to objectify her, not because he sees her as a person that has the right to dress comfortably (as long as it's still appropriate).
What's empowering about being a sexual object if you want to be a programmer?
Of course I did ask for reimbursement through the company and the company did approve, but that's not the point.
The act of doing potluck is supposed to raise morale. Whoever manager in charge should organize the potluck him/herself for maximum boost of morale. Telling others to do potluck is so lame. Telling someone else to take note is equally lame.
Presumably in a perfect labour market competant women will leave companies like this and go work for the non sexist competition
I believe that will be true for companies that do not embrace for example lean product discovery or software as transformative. But I just don't think the labour Market is really perfect enough to make this kind of difference
but even so, start looking at jobsites. You won't change them, and if you leave for good reasons, good employers will understand.
The basic idea is that even if you operate in a competitive market, your customers and associates may not: and due to this, competitive markets can sometimes only float the ball to some socially-appropriate level. So, let's talk about someone who stops doing business with you because they know your programmers are female and they hold some subconscious belief that female code is of lower quality. (I mean, if you called them on it they would say "no, of course not!" but somewhere deep inside they'd prefer the familiar and they discriminate institutionally rather than individually.) Now your incentives to discriminate are bound up in a complex: that complex contains their tastes, and what they're willing to pay to get a product which tastes right to them. If they're in a very competitive market they might not be able to afford any overhead, but if they're a personal user, or they are turning a profit, they get to choose based on their tastes alone and then your financial incentive is to also institutionally discriminate. The whole point is that discrimination might be "economically rational" while nondiscrimination might be "social justice" and therefore they can come at odds -- which is more or less the topic of the book.
I found it an interesting idea.
In the programming world, this translates to : become a great programmer, and you will find yourself in a great programming environment (birds of a feather...). If you really love programming, you will get to that point eventually.
Great programmers love programming, and love learning from other great programmers even more. That's why they'll never offend another great programmer or risk it all by indulging in bad behavior. (You can actually substitute "great programmer" here with "great any-profession". There might be exceptions, but in 15 years of programming, I haven't met any.)
When you don't have these types of programmers around you, whats left is the (sub-)average programmer, and the concomitant sexist environment.
Also, by wearing a low-cut blouse to a professional environment, you drive away those people who actually contribute to a good environment, leaving behind those that don't.
Biologically, men's brains light up when they see a woman's cleavage. The people who value you as a programmer will avoid you, because they recognize what's going on in their heads, avoid the distraction, and the risk of offending you. Heck, some of them might not even look in your direction. My advice is the same one I give my daughters: wear a scarf - it prevents the over-heating problem you mentioned. Its the same reason I wear boxers, rather than walk around in shorts.
You don't need to lighten up, just hunker down.
So, to me, you're saying that because we can't solve unsafe neighborhoods by calling out that undesirable behavior when we see it (which we can't), we shouldn't call out undesirable behavior in an unsafe work environment.
Biologically, human minds do or want to do lots of things when presented with various stimuli. That doesn't mean it's OK for them to do it. I wonder if we're biologically inclined to victim-blame the way you just did...
WoW! I did not know that. Thank you for that fact. But how do the men function in tribes where women walk around bare chested? It's a wonder more men don't drown on topless and nude beaches!
Or maybe you are attributing social conditioning to biology as an excuse for shitty behavior? And you have no actual evidence but you just badly want it to be true?
Disclaimer: I work for a midwestern branch of a major company based in California, and I've never worked in any of the major tech hubs.
Any guy could whip up blog posts about daily situations where specific (not necessarily superior) roles are imposed upon them by society simply because they are men.
I get told all the time by the ladies (even if jokingly) that I should put on some weight so I am more of a man.
I get asked all the time and it is assumed of me even more times to carry the bags because I am the man in the situation.
Aren't there centuries old idea about being a "gentleman"? Where you are expected to hold the door for the woman, buy her stuff etc.
Aren't there studies that men are much less likely to report rape than women? Shouldn't that be much more appalling to all than some of the pettier examples posted on HN recently?
The issue is not that women are too sensitive to joke with or talk with about these things. The issue is when those jokes are made at the expense of women, targeted at women, or degrading to women. And that's going to be true for most women both in and out of the workplace.
I fear the day we hire a hypersensitive woman and the entire office becomes censored.
Yes. It is hard being a woman in the industry. It is hard being a woman in general. But the worst part is seeing how many men think we act like an entirely different species, and its disheartening. Sometimes, comments speak of women as if we don't even read this site.
Obviously there are many cultural and sociological norms at play here, but I expect more from this community. I guess thats my fault.
I'm a fellow programmer, and a guy (if it matters), but whenever I hear this exact comment (luckily for me I didn't hear it from any of my present or past co-workers, only distant acquaintances) I almost literally start to boil. Are some of us men really, I mean really that stupid?!
Again, luckily for me most of my career as a programmer has been spent in small non-software specific firms (5 to 20 people) where the female to male ratio was in most cases higher than 50%, so that I didn't have to hear this misogynistic and stupid crap.
For example, with the notes issue - how does she know that she is being chosen because she's female. She probably doesn't. She's probably assuming that's the reason, because men are misogynist pigs, right?
It's one of those situations where we can't tell at all. The mens rea, if there is one, is hidden.
Why doesn't she assume that she takes the best notes or that the boss thinks that because of her CV [made up example:] having documentation experience or the best English pass scores of the group that she'll be the best note taker.
Everything we do-- what we wear, how we walk, the way we talk, sends subtle social signals, and these impact all areas of life. Two fundamental (and increasingly entwined) areas of life are sexuality (without which our race dies out) and economic (without which, each of us dies individually). These are tremendously entertwined, with over half of Americans having dated co-workers (see: http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2012/02/10/the-state-...).
So it seems to me that, particularly single, women navigating the modern workplace are trying to navigate two fundamentally conflicting desires. The first is to be professional and not be open to the problem of being offered promotions for sexual favors, or retaliation for declining such offers, and the second is to find romance, companionship, love, etc. The fact that workplace romances are so common cannot be discounted in this area.
And so you have two key questions:
1) How do you define appropriate boundaries? This is a hellishly difficult problem in the context of the workplace.
2) If boundaries aren't bright but involve a lot of give and take, then doesn't that fundamentally mean that there will be a lot of behavior that will fall outside of that which is desirable?
I honestly don't see how you solve that problem.
On the gender role issue, I am a firm believer that one is generally better off making such tasks as taking notes or arranging potlucks things which are volunteer, and then if that fails, rotated, eliminating those who can't do it reasonably well.
But beyond that........ As long as so much of our social spheres surround work, and that's where a lot of opportunity for dating (both for men and women) lies, I just don't buy that you can wish away unwanted attention.
Does that mean you can't ever ask again?
Or if you ask five times and are politely but not definitively turned down can you ask five more times? 25 more times? Is there no limit?
Now we might say there is an obligation to say something definitive. But then you get into a problem. What if there is a power difference? What if you are a general manager of one business unit asking a floor worker in a different business unit out on a date? Maybe the floor worker is afraid if she hurts your feelings, there will be career consequences? So does that change things?
I don't think sexuality (and that includes romance if we are honest) admits of really simple rules except maybe magic safe words. These things also thrive on mixed messages. Magic safe words ("no" and "stop") protect against the worst problems (sexual assault) but not unwanted attention (how am I supposed to definitively know whether the attention is wanted or not? I can't read minds....), and they don't address the areas where people may want to try to get out of something letting the other person down gently.
-Leonard Schlain (Sex, Time, and Power)
If your immediate knee-jerk response is to try to point out why it's her fault without reflecting on her points, you're part of the problem.
I really hope you don't stop doing what you love because of where you work.
Anyone says that at my workplace and they will be shown the door in less than 120 seconds.
Had it been "Katie's got the low cut dress on today! Going out tonight?" then I think it's acceptable.
So is this just a problem of the previous generation or a problem specific to the workplace?
I really do feel for the author, I can't imagine how awful it must be to put up with that kind of thing everyday.
Being labeled a sexist is a terrible thing.
Saying that a discussion by man on the subject is sexist seems potentially sexist because it implies that man should not discuss because they are man.
A.) Women would not like to be treated by men as men treat other men in the workplace. You might think so, but I think you'd find it is also inappropriate, just in different ways.
B.) Men would not like to be treated as women often treat other women in the workplace. You might think so, but I think you'd find it is also inappropriate, just in different ways.
which leads me to:
C.) It is difficult for either gender to rigorously define appropriate asexual behavior towards one another, as their behavior is (generally) genuinely sex-aware.
I am annoyed by childish behavior of my colleagues, this has nothing to do with me being able to handle it, just I would like to work somewhere where I don't have to deal with it all the time.
Also, some female colleagues left field because constant learning was just too much for them and they wanted someplace where they don't have to invest so much of them. Totally reasonable.
Again, can't relate to what you are describing and your description is in no way characteristic for IT, it might be corporate lack of culture in your workplace.