Over the last few weeks, I’ve found myself in a series of (mostly unrelated) events that all drilled into this same themes from different angles: Women. Technology. Sexism. Sexual tension. Sexuality. Sexual privilege. Sexualization. Sexual harassment. Feminism. Power. Reaction. Anger.
The tech industry is a male-dominated field, and it doesn’t have a lot of social infrastructure in place for dealing with its sexual transgressions. To add insult to injury, we’re stuck with woefully inadequate language to describe what’s happening in general terms. The phrase “women in the tech industry” doesn’t refer to a unified group of people with common opinions and experiences. Instead it describes a scattering of individuals who are, far too often, trying to get a job done as the only woman in a room. They face sex-related challenges in professional situations on their own, and they’ve found their own ways of walking through them.
As a young woman in the tech industry who’s still just trying to figure out the rules to the game, I have to admit I’m a little pissed off about how much in-fighting, criticism, and judgment I see women dishing out to each other on the subject of sexism, sexual harassment, and other concepts that start with sex. Forgive me for sounding naive and idealistic here, but it seems like our energy would be better spent respecting the differences of our individual paths over such a rocky terrain, and throwing each other a rope when needed.
As a gender-bending queer, I’ve always felt like mainstream representations of “women’s issues” included a lot of things I didn’t identify with, relate to, or experience in my daily life. On the same token, I fight my own unique list of social battles that many “mainstream women” (which is a bullshit notion in itself) don’t have to deal with. Our paths are different.
Except when they’re not.
Every single person on this planet can look at any large group of people and say, with plenty of evidence, “I’m one of them.” That same person, looking at the same group of people, can also say with just as much truth and proof, “They’re not like me.”
And when we’re talking about sex -ism/-uality/-ualization/-ual harassment, what we’re talking about is a big fat knot that has no right answers, and we all have to find our own paths through it.
I’d like to walk through it with the support, thoughts, ideas, respect, and understanding of the women around me.
(p.s. Just dawned on me: stuff about sexual harassment in the tech industry is usually about office politics. I’d just like to say that I work with the best, most respectful team on earth, and that area in my life is just fine.)