"And you think Mark ignored you because you're a woman?"
July 5, 2014 6:09 AM   Subscribe

The Ping Pong Theory of Tech Sexism by Ariel Schrag. A web comic about the subtleties of workplace sexism in male-dominated industries.
posted by Librarypt (120 comments total) 75 users marked this as a favorite
 
I really hope this goes viral, but I fear that the people who most need to read it will not.
posted by kewb at 6:35 AM on July 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


The thing it talks about, of never having a clear cut example to point to instead of a general pattern of low-grade shittiness, applies to all kinds of bias stuff in the workplace, and is incredibly hard to get people to see.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:44 AM on July 5, 2014 [39 favorites]


Ariel Schrag is great and this is just more evidence of that - thanks for this post, Librarypt!
posted by jammy at 6:46 AM on July 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


I like how she says she can't know if Mark's shitty behavior is because she's a woman, then proceeds to say what Mark's home life is like.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:47 AM on July 5, 2014 [21 favorites]


Could we order up another web comic like this on age-ism?
posted by sammyo at 6:56 AM on July 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


Ha, I came here to say that part about the man who thinks he is a feminist because he's married is so true... I've worked with quite a few of these.

I don't know what their home life is like, but they would talk a lot about their wives doing this and that great thing, then cut the women in the office out of major decisions.
posted by maggiemaggie at 6:57 AM on July 5, 2014 [30 favorites]


Thanks, this is a good post.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:13 AM on July 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


There is that phenomenon where men in "traditional" marriages tend to have more sexist attitudes. It's probably just that people model their expectations on their personal experiences.

It's super-weird that there are still men who consider women some sort of exotic other, but I guess if you're working in a male dominated industry where you don't normally work with women, it can happen.

So they do a bunch of little things. Recommend rom coms, make little jokes about how you probably like shopping, worry that you'll get emotional in meetings, things like that; and you can't really correct them without it coming out like that self-loathing "I'm not like other women" thing. Which would sound like you're personally insulting their wives and mothers. And individually, those misconceptions aren't a big deal or anything, but they add up. You work with people who base their perceptions of you on a domestic model. Even if I did share interests or traits with their wives, they probably wouldn't be applicable in the workplace anyway.
posted by ernielundquist at 7:31 AM on July 5, 2014 [29 favorites]


Reading this made me realize that I've been very lucky to work in equal or even female dominated employment. My first thought was to contact some women I know who work in tech, and ask them "is this comic accurate?" Not because I don't trust it, but because I had no idea it would be so insidious, so constant and yet hard to pin point.
posted by jb at 7:35 AM on July 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


I have one coworker whom I can't stand, for many of the usual mundane obnoxious-coworker reasons (finger-drumming on his desk, making lots of personal calls, talking too much, writing "u" instead of "you," being careless with organization), but in the past couple of months I've started noticing that he frequently interrupts me, tends to talk over people, stands or leans in too close, and has a bit of a condescending edge. It's just a mess of tiny things that don't merit any sort of confrontation or talk to HR, but drive me up the wall all the same. I've thought about quitting my job (which I otherwise love) just so I wouldn't have to be around him. I don't think these actions are sexist - mostly I think his personality just doesn't mesh with mine - but I do sometimes wonder if he wouldn't interrupt me if I were a guy. I can't prove that either way.

I've also noticed that he's repeatedly messed up my and my female colleague's (extremely common) names, yet I've never heard him get a male coworker's name wrong.

I always feel lousy for having such a strong aversion to him, because it only hurts me and everyone else seems to think he's a nice guy and I should make an effort to like people even if I don't want to and he's not doing anything wrong and blah blah, but you know, fuck that, I'm not getting paid to like anyone. And thank goodness there's just one of these guys instead of a room full of them.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:49 AM on July 5, 2014 [22 favorites]


I'm happy to see this comic spread more widely; my industry has a problem, and -- like this piece says -- it's a pernicious one in the sense that there's rarely a single specific instance to point to, just a pattern of low-level crap. I can't guarantee it'll be seen by everyone, or even anyone, that needs to understand this, but I'll certainly be doing my part to try.
posted by ChrisR at 7:49 AM on July 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think part of the problem is the perception that sexism is strictly an ideology, ie. an agenda and supporting beliefs that a person can hold. There sure are people who are sexist in that way, but even in an office with none of those you still get these weird patterns. Maybe they're not extra critical of ideas coming from women, but rather of ideas that are suggested in a higher pitched voice than they're used to. Maybe the ping pong guys just enjoy ping pong on its own merits and don't mind if women play it. Whatever. If sexism is an ideology and only an ideology, it might well be true that there are no sexists in the office, even as women are systematically excluded.

Perhaps it would be better to describe sexism as primarily a tradition. There are ideologues who support it, sure, but they only matter because of all the people following the tradition.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:54 AM on July 5, 2014 [24 favorites]


The specificity and thoroughness of this rivals Groening's early work.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 7:57 AM on July 5, 2014 [9 favorites]


I didn't read the whole thing because it's too painful. I've been in the tech industry for 20 years and experienced much of this. Getting cut out of things... happens all the time. I've worked at two different places where I was cut out of the source control without being told. At one place, the other (male) programmer branched the code and decided to release off of that branch. At another, the other (male) programmer decided to forego using the tool altogether and just release off of his own machine. At other places (including my current and former places of employment), the male manager discusses project issues with my male project manager without either of them ever including me in the discussion, despite the fact that I'm the primary programmer on it. Oh yeah, and "I only like the men" woman and will never give any woman any support - I've worked with her too.
posted by jenh526 at 8:04 AM on July 5, 2014 [15 favorites]


I like how she says she can't know if Mark's shitty behavior is because she's a woman, then proceeds to say what Mark's home life is like.

So - shame on Ariel Schrag for not focussing on the real victim? What resources exist for men subject to anonymized speculation about their home lives? I am not sure I understand the issue here...
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:12 AM on July 5, 2014 [24 favorites]


The Beau works at Google, and he and I think all the men in his office had to do "unconscious bias" training that addressed this kind of stuff. He seemed to think it was really smart way of handling it because it was entirely stats and things which are the kind of things engineers listen to.
posted by KernalM at 8:17 AM on July 5, 2014 [22 favorites]


Reading this made me realize that I've been very lucky to work in equal or even female dominated employment.

Me too, although it is so pink collar it hurts. Like, it really hurts that the status is low, the pay is shitty for the level of responsibility, and there is little-to-no room for advancement.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:20 AM on July 5, 2014 [14 favorites]


I am not sure I understand the issue here...

Not being a hypocrite? Yeah, not being a hypocrite.
posted by adipocere at 8:22 AM on July 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Not being a hypocrite? Yeah, not being a hypocrite.

Given the breadth of issues and examples and language covered, as well as the narrative framing, I'd say focusing on some seemingly contradictory logic contained in a comedic effort is specious criticism.

I'm confounded why Brandon Blatcher's comment is so highly favorited, other than the comment is ambiguously worded by, "I like how...", and comes up early in the thread.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 8:30 AM on July 5, 2014 [20 favorites]


Because someone pointing out a superficial contradiction means that the entire thing is totally valueless and no one has to think about sexism anymore. Whee, no more uncomfortable sexism! The world is perfect again.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:32 AM on July 5, 2014 [88 favorites]


This is really good. I'm a male so I'm definitely not tuned into all this stuff and may even be guilty of it to some (hopefully small) extent, but I've seen it happen to the few female coders I've worked with a lot.

It's been worst in the young trendy informal kinda places, and (maybe surprisingly? I don't know) generally better in traditional stuffy engineering environments with more process structure and transparency.

What I've observed a few times is how much the atmosphere changes when the last woman quits. Within a week a male-only office becomes a constant churn of sexist jokes and crude references. Programmers start using anatomical names for temporary variables. Desktop wallpaper gets a bit dodgy. It's pretty terrible, and it shows those attitudes were there all along, they were just hidden. The comic is not paranoia, there really is a problem.
posted by dickasso at 8:41 AM on July 5, 2014 [66 favorites]


I'm confounded why Brandon Blatcher's comment is so highly favorited,

I think this reaction has to do with a specious idea of "balance." Some people think that if we're being advised to do something differently, in order to help correct an existing imbalance (i.e., to make more of an effort to be aware of women's struggles in the workplace), then this equates to doing that group a special favor that is "unfair" and hypocritical. Following this reasoning, if we built a ramp for wheelchair access, it's unfair unless we also build some sort of super-special nice stairs to benefit people with full use of their legs. Not doing so would be hypocritical, since otherwise you're doing something to benefit one group of people and not the other!

So, despite the fact that it is demonstratably women who have problems with sexist behavior in the workplace, if we are advised to be extra sensitive to sexism against women, then we must also be extra sensitive not to offend men about anything whatsoever (speculating about their family life), so that things remain "equal."
posted by demonic winged headgear at 8:44 AM on July 5, 2014 [64 favorites]


KernalM - I'd recently heard about the unconscious bias training too! My whole career my employers merely required grotesquely poor harassment training. Trivially obvious scenarios with quizzes. It makes it seem like inequity isn't a thing because people aren't (largely) going around slapping asses. Google's training seems so much better.
posted by R343L at 8:47 AM on July 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


Well, the home life thing is another thing, too.

When men think of women as one big monolithic entity, and when they base their perceptions on a domestic model (wife, mother, daughter, etc.), they tend to behave in inappropriately familiar ways. They'll ask you what their wife meant by something in their last argument, tell you weirdly intimate details of their home lives, and often treat you like you're there for emotional support.

I have always known all the soap opera shit about certain male coworkers. There's one guy I could write a book about his personal turmoils and his relationship with his wife, but I don't even remember his name. Never saw him outside of work or even went to lunch with him or anything. We weren't friends, and I didn't even like him. But I could probably describe his wife's post birth vagina to a sketch artist if anyone needed a wanted poster of that.

So she may very well know a lot more about his home life than you imagine.
posted by ernielundquist at 8:56 AM on July 5, 2014 [39 favorites]


Not, it really is not specious as criticism goes. Being as how people are all confused as to why why why, let's break it down:

Advocacy, social criticism, moral stances, they all expect you to do something: to change your mind, to take action, to spread the word, and so forth. This piece is in that category.

Next up is hypocrisy. I feel weird about having to point out a basic thing but generally, people don't like hypocrisy when that hypocrisy comes at them from someone trying to engage them in advocacy, social criticism, and moral stances. Pause for a second and recollect how we felt with the toe-tappin' Republicans. We say, "ha ha, hypocrite," and it made all of the "defense of marriage" stuff look pretty damned silly. And it gets rejected, wholesale.

Great, so we have now established that this piece is thing which can be evaluated on that basis and if it is found to be hypocritical, noting it will be a reason to view it with a more jaundiced eye. On to the specifics.

Brandon Blatcher's comment was that the whole of the piece revolves around this low-level paranoia, she doesn't know if it really is because she's a woman (or a gay woman, or butch). That's the thrust of it, this background just wondering why it is going on. Is it me, or is it because I am a ....? And yet, despite this, the central premise of the piece, she's totally okay with making up a just-so story about Mark's home life where his wife and he took a recent visit to Stepford or something. You're the champ, Mark.

This suggests that the author of the piece is not really willing to put her money where her mouth is. She's not doing unto others as she would have done unto her, and so forth. Which goes back to hypocrisy and there we are. She's not willing to be the change she wants to see in this world.

Now, we could keep on in this vein or we could stop being disingenuous all the time, because it's a lousy rhetorical stance to take.
posted by adipocere at 8:56 AM on July 5, 2014 [8 favorites]


Next up is hypocrisy. I feel weird about having to point out a basic thing but generally, people don't like hypocrisy when that hypocrisy comes at them from someone trying to engage them in advocacy, social criticism, and moral stances.

To be honest, "men who want women to satisfy an impossibly high standard of consideration for the tender feelings of the mens, while negotiating work environments hostile to them" are not necessarily the audience that is being sought to be engaged in advocacy, social criticism and moral stances. They are just people who might also access the material, because Internet, and in this case because MetaFilter.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:03 AM on July 5, 2014 [23 favorites]


And yet, despite this, the central premise of the piece, she's totally okay with making up a just-so story about Mark's home life where his wife and he took a recent visit to Stepford or something. You're the champ, Mark.

What? No. You have pretty well failed to point out the hypocrisy here. Is the comic hypocritical because it claims a lack of certainty about one thing (whether X is making a decision because Y is a woman or not) and yet has certainty about another (the kind of domestic life of X)? That's not hypocritical at all. It's a perfectly viable situation. I can know a lot about one thing and nothing about another, and have the knowledge about one not help me alleviate the ignorance about another, and so on. This is not hypocrisy at all.

Or is the comic hypocritical because it asks us to treat women as individual real human people and then stereotypes men? If so then your objection amounts to the "Not All Men" canard that's been twitter-fuel lately, and I'll leave it to you to find responses.

Either way I fail to see your point.
posted by dis_integration at 9:10 AM on July 5, 2014 [19 favorites]


Thanks demonic winged headgear that scans for me. It's annoying when plaintive posts are marked more by tone than substance. That is one defintion of a dog whistle. So Brandon Blatcher's comment is straight up sarcasm?

The main strategy of evasion employed by men's magazines takes the form of cheeky knowingness and self-reflexiveness (commonly glossed as irony), which enables it to simultaneously affirm and deny its values. Indeed, it has been observed that irony preserves a quality of "deniability" (Stringfellow, 1994) It allows a writer to articulate an anti-feminist sentiment, whilst explicitly distancing himself from it, and thus disclaiming responsibility from or even an authentic authorship of it."
Gender identity and discourse analysis By Lia Litosseliti, Jane Sunderland

"As Frank Stringfellow argues, Freud was too precipitous in dismissing irony as merely a conscious, rhetorical flourish. Certainly irony does function as a conscious defense mechanism. The canny rhetor is shielded from censure because the author always says the opposite of whatever substance the audience makes of his or her remarks. This is the refuge of of plausible deniability. But ambiguous utterances fashioned to elude censure are also an ideal avenue for the unconscious to have its say."
Horror Film and Psychoanalysis-Freud's Worst Nightmares Edited by Steven Jay Schneider

posted by lazycomputerkids at 9:11 AM on July 5, 2014 [6 favorites]


Now, we could keep on in this vein or we could stop being disingenuous all the time,

No, adipocere, it is your response that is specious. This is because it ignores history and the real existence of actual conditions in the world, in favor of a totally abstract "do-unto-others" principle. The fact is, with issues such as racism, sexism, and many others, we have to recognize that historical conditions put some groups of people at a disadvantage, as opposed to others, and we should respond to them in ways that take this into account. It does no good to pretend that baseless remarks about this guy's family life are just as bad as sexism, because we can demonstrate that sexism has historically disadvantaged women. Unlike baseless remarks about white males' family life. We don't have to "wonder" about why it is going on (generally), we know. We are not disingenuously pretending not to know about the reality of sexism, as you are.
posted by demonic winged headgear at 9:19 AM on July 5, 2014 [23 favorites]


I like how she says she can't know if Mark's shitty behavior is because she's a woman, then proceeds to say what Mark's home life is like.

And yet, despite this, the central premise of the piece, she's totally okay with making up a just-so story about Mark's home life where his wife and he took a recent visit to Stepford or something. You're the champ, Mark.

1. She "can't know if Mark's shitty behavior is because she's a woman" in the exact scientific/engineering cause and effect sense, like we can't know if one particular individual's throat cancer is from 30 years of smoking. There's definitely a statistical correlation there, but maybe that particular individual has throat cancer from some other source. Kind of like, I've been in graduate math classes where, well, I can't know that I was being treated in a biased way due to being the only or one of only two women in the class. Not really enough data there to ascertain if it's a sexism thing or a not liking or connecting with me, specifically, thing, you know?

2. Her observation that Mark seemed to think that his being married was proof against sexism on his part was an observation, not speculation. It may be inaccurate observation. May not. We don't have enough info to know. But that was not speculation on his home life.

3. She does seem to speculate on a typical interaction between Mark and his wife. As commenters upthread have noted, we don't know her level of knowledge of Mark's home life, so don't know how much this is speculation versus observation. The conversation part seems likely to me to be speculative at least, since it seems unlikely to me that Mark would do such complaining to his wife in Schrag's presence. ... But so what? She's not complaining that Mark speculates about her home life. She doesn't mention anyone at her work speculating about her home life, nor that she thinks that that might be a component of her discomfort or a component of their subtly sexist behavior. She complains about their actions toward her at work. To be hypocritical, one has to engage in the behavior that one is upset about others engaging in. Schrag is not doing this.

4. Furthermore, the point of that little story in the narrative of the comic is to introduce the further stories of the atomization of and lack of support between women engendered by the overall sexist milieu, and to describe how this affects her. It affects her relationships with female work colleagues, but it also affects her relationships with male work colleagues in that other women in these men's lives (including those outside of the work context) excuse and support their undermining and subtly sexist behavior. The comic is framed as a conversation for accessibility, but it's not just Schrag imagining someone interviewing her - that is, the protagonist shouldn't be read as being Schrag exactly and precisely in a strictly documentary sense. This is an accessible presentation of what is actually a fairly deep analysis of structural oppression - that is, as LogicalDash pointed out, the comic is not about the conscious, ideological, intentionally discriminatory sort of sexism, but rather the often unconscious, subtle, pernicious, and structural sort.
posted by eviemath at 9:28 AM on July 5, 2014 [40 favorites]


Perhaps it would be better to describe sexism as primarily a tradition.

It may even be innate or biological, which would be just as irrelevant. For practical purposes, sexism is refusing to make the effort to reflect critically on one's own treatment of others.

Excusing sexism on the grounds that it has some ultimate cause is usually just a result of really not wanting to take any responsibility for it.
posted by klanawa at 9:34 AM on July 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


First of all, there's nothing wrong with the frame in question. It's clear what comes from the person being interviewed, what comes from the interviewer, and what was added later for the comic, and none of those are out of line or particularly problematic.

The actual problem here is yet another repetition of a pattern where people use a small flaw (or perceived flaw) as an entry to discrediting the whole, and it seems to happen most frequently here in discussions of gender and sexism. Even if that frame was super problematic (which it is not), the rest of the piece still stands, and it's noteworthy how the crappy criticisms never engage with the larger argument but instead just nitpick at some trivial detail.

Personally I think claiming that the frame is just unfounded speculation about his homelife is a misreading, but even if it is, a more sympathetic (and context-supported) reading would read it in terms of her frustration with the situation, rather than in terms of bad faith. Instead we get what is basically a tone argument -- "I would have read and engaged with the piece, but this one point is wrong/misandrist/etc so how could I possibly not nitpick?"

(I am ambivalent about even making this comment, because responding to the shitty derails is part of how they get traction, but at the same time there is value in naming a crappy pattern and how it works, so as to avoid it in the future.)
posted by Dip Flash at 9:42 AM on July 5, 2014 [57 favorites]


other women in these men's lives (including those outside of the work context) excuse and support their undermining and subtly sexist behavior.

Exactly. How often in arguments about sexism here does some man come back to the thread and report in a huff, 'well, my wife agrees with me!' as if that completely negated everything other women had to say. Because of course the dude's wife is going to take some stranger's part over that of the man with whom she sleeps.
posted by winna at 9:58 AM on July 5, 2014 [15 favorites]


klanawa — I read LogicalDash's comment not as an excuse, but more pointing out that just as many people have trouble recognizing sexism and sexist behavior unless it comes in moustache-twirlingly evil form, many people have trouble recognizing it unless it comes accompanied by an MRA-equivalent manifesto that explicitly states "we believe women are inferior".

Most people who perpetuate sexism don't have a manifesto, and many of them are shocked and offended when it's pointed out to them that they're behaving in a sexist manner — so shocked and offended that they refuse to see it. Framing it as "this is a tradition you're unwittingly strengthening and passing along" may help some people recognize that they too have been shaped by the sexist culture we all grew up in, and that sometimes it manifests in their behavior unless they take care to pay attention and not do sexist things when they recognize them popping up in their lives. (For example, "not noticing" messes, not keeping track of children's medical needs, etc. etc. etc.)
posted by Lexica at 10:01 AM on July 5, 2014 [10 favorites]


I guess a 1:33 ratio of her-fault-she's-a-hypocrite to overwhelming-constant-sexism-permeating-the-workplace makes sense, given the ratio of women to men that's such a huge part of the problem.
posted by Etrigan at 10:09 AM on July 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


I have always known all the soap opera shit about certain male coworkers. There's one guy I could write a book about his personal turmoils and his relationship with his wife, but I don't even remember his name.

N-thing this as a woman in tech. Holy cow I know so much about the personal lives of so many of my male co-workers. I almost feel like a de-facto relationship counselor even though most of the time I'm just listening with my jaw agape. I'm pretty sure they know nothing about mine. I guess it's like you said that some guys consider women automatic confidants for these problems? Also dudes talk about their relationship stuff with each other sometimes and you overhear it, especially in an open office. It's always interesting to hear the difference between what they tell each other and what they tell you. And by interesting, I usually mean uncomfortable and depressing.

I also have unfortunately overheard a lot of conversations about other woman in the office, that I'm sure I'm not really meant to hear. About so and so being hot or so and so being a bitch. If you have an office IRC channel or things like that, they often talk about it there too. And if you are not conventionally feminine I feel you are often considered invisible and they feel comfortable talking this way even in this forum you are a part of.
posted by melissam at 10:09 AM on July 5, 2014 [15 favorites]


Thank you. This was interesting for me to read because I studied CS and I've had internships in tech companies, and I've never seen overt sexism in the ways described by people on the blue. But it's certainly possible that this sort of stuff happens and I just don't classify it as sexism because, as the comic describes, there's always some other plausible explanation.

And, weirdly, it makes these stories more credible to me when the protagonist or whatever that in any particular case there might be a plausible alternative explanation. It helps to admit that sexism is something diagnosed in the aggregate. That means it's a diagnosis that can survive the refutation of any particular instance. So it's possible to accept the overall claim of sexism without discarding my prior, probably much more directly experience-based, belief that actually this particular person is just frequently and uniformly a jerk to the vast majority of people I've seen him interact with.

Also: "the other (male) programmer decided to forego using the [source control] tool altogether and just release off of his own machine." Assuming this wasn't some kind of emergency hot-fix, that would be a ridiculous violation of every release process I've heard of. Reading this gives me the same eerie Twilight-Zone feeling as from that other thread where the Tinder guy was harassing a direct report in writing. I just struggle to imagine the sort of environment where this wouldn't be a huge release process violation and your coworker wouldn't get pulled aside "for a chat" on purely technical grounds.
posted by d. z. wang at 10:09 AM on July 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


Most people who perpetuate sexism don't have a manifesto, and many of them are shocked and offended when it's pointed out to them that they're behaving in a sexist manner — so shocked and offended that they refuse to see it.

Some of that shock stems from not being aware of background-radiation sexism in the first place. It's the difference between telling someone in one doubly surprising swoop, "Background radiation exists and you just created some of it," which most likely conveys as a weighty accusation, versus, "Hey, you know that thing we talked about the other day? Yeah."

To my reading, that's what's productive about this comic. It's the "I HAVE NO IDEA!" panels. In those portions she isn't calling anyone out for any particular thing. She is telling people, "This is a thing I think about." And then along will come another woman who agrees, "Yes, I also think about that." And another, and so on. It puts that common concern on the table.

Without addressing the value of individual confrontation or the best way to do it, it's useful to extract this separate step. Create and reinforce the awareness that yes, this is something on many women's minds, and then maybe a person walking into a new interaction behaves differently.
posted by cribcage at 10:31 AM on July 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


get good at ping-pong?

But, for the love of God, not too good.

I just struggle to imagine the sort of environment where this wouldn't be a huge release process violation and your coworker wouldn't get pulled aside "for a chat" on purely technical grounds.

This kind of cowboy bullshit is completely de rigueur at any start-up. Half the time, it's the leads who should be doing the chat-pulling who are responsible. Worse case scenario, you fix it remotely at 2am (from the bar, of course) and look like a hero.

Lots of cowboy bullshit is de rigueur, unfortunately.
posted by Reyturner at 10:33 AM on July 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


I guess a 1:33 ratio of her-fault-she's-a-hypocrite to overwhelming-constant-sexism-permeating-the-workplace makes sense, given the ratio of women to men that's such a huge part of the problem.

This is a claim, right? As assertion? Qualified paraphrastically as a guess? To serve a sarcasm dressed with a ratio to achieve a presented irony?

Sarcasm is but a lazy irony.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 10:33 AM on July 5, 2014


In order: No, no, don't know what that means, and no.
posted by Etrigan at 10:40 AM on July 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


(I think it just means "out of 34 panels about a woman's experience of working at a tech company, ignoring all the others to focus on this one panel, where the speaker does not appear and the focus is on a male colleague, makes a useful comment in itself about attitudes to women in the workplace".)
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:43 AM on July 5, 2014 [14 favorites]


I like the way the comic is very upfront about the kind of uncertainty that plagues situations like this, where it's not 100% clear cut that it's only about her being a woman but at the same time the likelihood of it being 100% not about her being a woman is really, really low. Hello, life.

I don't like the way this kind of honest uncertainty is handled by some people who think that unless you can show it is "100% That Thing" that means it must be "100% Totally Something Else" - and that the slightest mistake in the recounting means the entirety can be dismissed out of hand.
posted by rtha at 10:45 AM on July 5, 2014 [33 favorites]


I had a problem with the representation of the other women. The first one has exposed boobs and curly hair, so clearly, the heroine can't look like that. And then the others are so characterless as to be cyphers. The woman with the big breasts doesn't even rate a face. The female engineer is shown to be part of the problem. the wife of Mark is part of the problem, the female trainer/consultant is part of the problem (is that a gag over her mouth?) and the women listening to the trainer are shown only from the back (the men in a group have faces.) The plucky heroine is never shown in conversation with a group of other women or even a group of men and women.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:47 AM on July 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


In order: No, no, don't know what that means, and no.

Phew. Sorry. Failed to parse it.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 10:47 AM on July 5, 2014


I like the way the comic is very upfront about the kind of uncertainty that plagues situations like this, where it's not 100% clear cut that it's only about her being a woman but at the same time the likelihood of it being 100% not about her being a woman is really, really low. Hello, life.

Totally agree and it's what I generally like about the comic, which is very well done overall. That particular panel about Mark's home life bothers me a point of logic and storytelling, because it pulled me out the story. It's not really clear what she's going for there, other than a dig at Mark, who admittedly sounds like he's earned it multiple times over.

But to be clear that problematic one panel doesn't mean that any of the story's other points are invalid or that the overall comic isn't well done.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:54 AM on July 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


Possible explanations for the offending "Mark's home life" panel:

1. He literally told her that. Men do this. Their female family members serve the same essential function as their "black friend." Basically, they cite them regularly as evidence that they're not racist/sexist, and then use them as excuses to continue racist or sexist behavior.

2. It's indicative of the sort of paranoid thinking that an environments full of little microaggressions and maybe maybe not sexism makes you prone to.

I suspect maybe it's a little of both.

The whole point of the comic is that she's never really sure whether something is motivated by sexism or not. The narrator's whole point IS that she's unreliable and that she knows she can't fully trust her perceptions, especially when it comes to discrete instances of maybe-sexism. That's how workplaces like that operate. It's a million nagging little things that you may know are sexist cumulatively, but if you take them individually, there's enough plausible deniability that you can't really call them out without looking like you're overreacting.

That leads to a couple of things:

Imposter syndrome. I'd guess the vast majority of women in hostile workplaces have experienced this to some degree at some point or another. Everyone seems to be ignoring and dismissing you, and subtly hinting that maybe you're not so good at your job. And that can be hard to brush off when it's coming from all angles, even if you know or strongly suspect it's just plain old sexism.

Vague paranoia. You do start imagining how people are talking about you and the assumptions they might be making about you. Stereotype threat is very much real, and it is subtly reinforced your whole life. You know people are talking shit about you, because sometimes you hear it, and you hear it about other women all the time, and you start parsing your interactions with that in mind, and you start expecting it.
posted by ernielundquist at 11:06 AM on July 5, 2014 [29 favorites]


And don't ever get pregnant unless you want to be not looked in the eye for 9 months. It's a tough row to hoe.
posted by tchemgrrl at 11:19 AM on July 5, 2014


The maturity of Schrag's skills are every where in the piece. Beginning and returning with Ping-pong; the use of an avatar; characters shown through the action and action controlled through the characters; effacement with choices that evince sterotype (Roscoe, hush!); and, achieving relevance through a contemporary issue (Tinder) with a comprehension of the long standing problems.

It is deliberate composition and length on which she can hang and fill commentary and connotation. I compared her to Groening, but Lynda Barry is an obvious influence.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 11:28 AM on July 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


I had a problem with the representation of the other women. The first one has exposed boobs and curly hair, so clearly, the heroine can't look like that.

Which is the point. It's not another woman, it's what the author doesn't want to be represented as.

And then the others are so characterless as to be cyphers. The woman with the big breasts doesn't even rate a face.

It seems pretty clear to me that this is an illustration of another problem, that those are her defining characteristic to her male co-workers.

The female engineer is shown to be part of the problem. the wife of Mark is part of the problem

And? It's demonstrating how some attitudes among women in tech workplaces can be toxic and contribute to the problem, or that men can use their relationships with other women to convince themselves that sexism isn't part of the problem.

the female trainer/consultant is part of the problem (is that a gag over her mouth?)

It looks more like she's showing that the company is doing little more than playing lip service to women, putting them into the position of empowering themselves than making men responsible for their actions and attitudes. And no, that's not a gag, just her mouth.

and the women listening to the trainer are shown only from the back (the men in a group have faces.)

I see this as further illustration of the problem. That frame is showing that dealing with sexism is supposed to be entirely the responsibility of the women, not the men, which is unlikely to solve anything but the most flagrant instances of sexism.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:38 AM on July 5, 2014 [16 favorites]


I find it so disturbing that pretty much every conversation about sexism becomes derailed by some version of "Mark's home life"; The Man Who Is The Real Victim Here, etc etc. You call it at the beginning of the thread and watch it play out as you read through.

This comic is fantastically subtle. I would think that pretty much anyone could relate to this "othering" in the work environment and see examples of all these things reflected in their own experiences, both as victims and as perpetrators. "Sexism" as just one word to describe the weird hierarchical tribalism of humans that in one way or another affects almost all our social interaction.

I read a quote recently (perhaps on the blue) that suck with me, talking about how MRAs were men who discover the problems with the patriarchy then blamed feminists, and it's so true. Sexism is the lens through which we discover this.
posted by young_son at 11:45 AM on July 5, 2014 [25 favorites]


...if we stick up for our ideas, or challenge ideas that are coming from men, the men really, really do not like it.

I wish the comic had talked more about what that looks like. "Every idea is put through the wringer and requires endless justification" sounds like potentially healthy technical discourse, as long as everyone's ideas are getting that treatment.
posted by Coventry at 12:06 PM on July 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I am a female software engineer at a hip San Francisco tech company.

We are big fans of pair programming at my workplace. Just last week, the product manager for my team came up to my pair and me, and addressed a technical question specifically and directly to my (male) pair, even though it was about a feature we both worked on.

This sort of thing happens a lot. We'll go up to another group of people to have a technical discussion, and they will address their answers and their gazes at my male coworkers. Not at me.

There are other female engineers at the company, and I have subtly tried to ascertain whether they experience the same things. But I'm a new developer, and I worry that talking about these things will just lead others to conclude that these things happen to me because I am unskilled. I don't know how much of this is because I'm inexperienced, and how much of it is because I'm a woman. It is lonely and wearying.

Comics like this one help.
posted by mellifluous at 12:19 PM on July 5, 2014 [43 favorites]


I am a man (bi, white, cis) who works at a tech company just like this one.

I know that my behavior is far from perfect, but I'm at least trying to be aware of these things and not immediately get pissed when someone sees them and calls them out. I try to call them out when I see them.

I don't think this is something that will improve all at once, and it is tricky to balance the needs of progress with the needs of my career. (I'm not going to call out anything that will get me fired.)

Constant incremental improvement is about the best I can do. I hope it is enough.

One of the side effects of this is that I am disproportionately friends with the female engineers where I work. This has probably hurt my career, but I don't care.

Comics like this are definitely a good thing, and I find the honesty here trumps any need for a pure message.

One thing that I have started doing with all of my co-workers is asking what level they are at with a given technology before I try to explain it to them. This is tricky, but it keeps you from being condescending and keeps you from flying right over anyone's head.

No, we don't have a ping pong table.
posted by poe at 12:26 PM on July 5, 2014 [7 favorites]


I wish the comic had talked more about what that looks like. "Every idea is put through the wringer and requires endless justification" sounds like potentially healthy technical discourse, as long as everyone's ideas are getting that treatment.


Based on your reading of the text, do you think it's likely that this is what is being noted? The rest of that speech bubble might be useful in assessing this probability:
I've talked to the other women in the office and we feel like our expertise isn't valued. That we're just there to agree with the men. And when we push back it isn't pretty. And it can be scary - especially for the younger women who are made to feel insecure. Because, if we stick up for our ideas, or challenge ideas that are coming from the men, the men really, really do not like it.
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:48 PM on July 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


(And indeed the panel directly following, where this exact argument is addressed.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:50 PM on July 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


do you think it's likely that this is what is being noted

If you mean do I think it already sounds like a healthy critical discourse, of course not.

I was wishing for examples of Samantha's colleagues behaving in a way which makes her feel like she can't stand up for her ideas, or challenge her colleagues ideas.
posted by Coventry at 1:10 PM on July 5, 2014


Right after I read this comic I saw a comment in another thread here describing a Salon article as "pearl-clutching."

I'm getting so that my reaction to seeing something or someone written-off with a gendered dismissal is somewhere between, "Hmm, I should err on the side of taking that seriously," and "If that's your best rebuttal, the argument must be unassailable."
posted by straight at 1:13 PM on July 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


Mellifluous, I feel the same way as you do if that helps at all. Another thing that happens is that my ideas are actually attributed to the men as if they're the ones who came out with them in meetings when I'm the one who has said them. I really don't even think its done on purpose. I'm often given admin tasks and when I complain I'm told "it's okay, you can multitask, you're a woman". It's awful. And I do fight back, but I also want to be liked. It's extremely difficult to know where to draw the line. Yesterday was particularly depressing as one of my favourite (older, male) colleagues actually said "good morning, little one" to me.
posted by hazyjane at 1:30 PM on July 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


Because someone pointing out a superficial contradiction means that the entire thing is totally valueless and no one has to think about sexism anymore.

I thought MetaFilter was largely on board with the idea that you can like something and still discuss the things about it that are problematic without invalidating the things that are good.

I don't think Brandon's observation needed to be such a derail. This comic does a fantastic job of conveying what it's like for many women in tech jobs. And it's a shame she makes some uncharitable assumptions in depicting some of the other women mentioned in the comic. But I think that's just an honest portrayal of her experiences and doesn't make the comic less worthwhile.

The fact that the some of the ways some women cope with sexism end up making things harder for other women is an important part of the toxic environment created by sexism.
posted by straight at 1:32 PM on July 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


I was wishing for examples of Samantha's colleagues behaving in a way which makes her feel like she can't stand up for her ideas, or challenge her colleagues ideas.

Ah, well, in that case the following panel is particularly useful:
But like I was saying, it's not as if you can ever solidly prove that something is sexist. And sexism is a serious allegation to make...

There's not one single example I could give. That's not how sexism works.
Also, of course, this is a 34-panel comic strip, and "Sam" is speaking under condition of anonymity, so possibly your wish for examples would be at odds with the goals of the creator and the interviewee.

However, if you are looking for solid examples of women being treated differently because of their gender in the technology industry, then there are some handy recent examples, including Julie Horvath at Github and Whitney Wolfe at Tinder, although these are both, inevitably, contested.

I thought MetaFilter was largely on board with the idea that you can like something and still discuss the things about it that are problematic without invalidating the things that are good.

This maxim relates better to Game of Thrones, I think, than to focussing on a behavior you wish to criticize in a person. The criticism was not of the comic as a piece of art, but of the behavior of the person whose first-person experiential account is the basis of the comic.

So, yeah, in a perfect world it would not have been a derail, but.
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:35 PM on July 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


klanawa — I read LogicalDash's comment not as an excuse...

Fair enough.

Just last week, the product manager for my team came up to my pair and me, and addressed a technical question specifically and directly to my (male) pair, even though it was about a feature we both worked on.

I'm a male software developer working in a remote sensing lab. On at least one occasion, I've directed a question specifically to a female grad student. A male grad student interjected, she deferred to him and I ended up getting my answer from him. But it was a question she could easily have answered.

The lab is about half women, but still a very macho environment. Everyone seems to reflexively perpetuate the same pattern: if there's a man around, ask him. And the confidence gap is huge.

I couldn't see any way to keep the focus on her without deliberately cutting the male grad student out, and/or fixating on the female grad student in a way that would have seemed creepy.
posted by klanawa at 1:42 PM on July 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


(But, faced with a "what about the mens" derail, one has to either let it sit there, and give the impression that MetaFilter is a place where the "what about the mens" derail is a valued part of the discussion, orengage with the derail. Something that has been discussed recently has been flagging derails in the thread as derails, and specifically asking people not to engage with them, which may be the way forward, generally. However, there's a balance between not allowing the discussion to be destroyed by derails and finding utility in the way that they occur in threads like this.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:43 PM on July 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I couldn't see any way to keep the focus on her without deliberately cutting the male grad student out, and/or fixating on the female grad student in a way that would have seemed creepy.

"I'm sorry, what gave you the idea that you needed to answer this question that I posed to this person?" That way, you're not white-knighting, you're just pointing out that what he did was rude regardless of the male-female dynamic.
posted by Etrigan at 1:47 PM on July 5, 2014 [11 favorites]


> "There's not one single example I could give. That's not how sexism works."

Yeah, this. A frustrating thing about many modern iterations of sexism is that it can be very subtle. Rather than a matter of pointing to something and saying, "This was motivated by sexism", you need to look at larger patterns of behavior. It's sometimes not so much that men are never interrupted during a meeting, it's that women get interrupted significantly more often.

So when questions are asked such as, are suggestions put forward by men subjected to similar levels of rigor at this workplace, the answer may be... yes, sometimes. But what's the trend, what happens more often, what's the larger pattern? And if all the women there feel like their "expertise isn't valued", the larger pattern is very likely not good -- even if the people perpetuating the patterns of behavior have no idea they're doing it.
posted by kyrademon at 2:31 PM on July 5, 2014 [7 favorites]


(Also, Ariel Schrag is awesome. Was actually talking with someone about her novel "Adam" today, coincidentally; I'd just read it a couple of weeks ago. "Potential" still tops the list as my favorite work of hers, though.)
posted by kyrademon at 2:34 PM on July 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I wish it was easier to call people out on sexism and racism. It's everywhere, it's unconscious, and it's correctible. As it stands, though, that's a big accusation, and usually received poorly.

No dude, I am not suggesting that you rape and kill women for laughs, or that you'd like to own slaves, I'm just saying, maybe your reaction to this person is a little bit colored by extraneous data. If the same ideas and work came out of someone who looks/dresses/talks like you, how would you respond? Just think about that for a second before acting. You're not a monster, we're all susceptible to this cultural programming. But you're too smart to let it rule you, aren't you?
posted by jetsetlag at 2:46 PM on July 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


I like how she says she can't know if Mark's shitty behavior is because she's a woman, then proceeds to say what Mark's home life is like.

Brandon Blatcher's comment was that the whole of the piece revolves around this low-level paranoia, she doesn't know if it really is because she's a woman (or a gay woman, or butch). That's the thrust of it, this background just wondering why it is going on. Is it me, or is it because I am a ....? And yet, despite this, the central premise of the piece, she's totally okay with making up a just-so story about Mark's home life where his wife and he took a recent visit to Stepford or something. You're the champ, Mark.

This suggests that the author of the piece is not really willing to put her money where her mouth is. She's not doing unto others as she would have done unto her, and so forth. Which goes back to hypocrisy and there we are. She's not willing to be the change she wants to see in this world.


I doubt I'd have seen this without Brandon Blatcher's and adipocere's comments, but I don't think the "just-so story" about Mark's home life has anything to do with hypocrisy, it has to do with the perennial and almost unavoidable desire victims experience not to see the world as being as hostile to them as it actually is so that they can go on living in it without being reduced to catatonia, and that the primary means by which victims satisfy this desire is by finding a way to blame themselves.

Sam begins the arc of blaming herself by attributing Mark's behavior partly to his wife, with whom she identifies at a very basic level as a woman, then proceeds to the woman with large breasts that she admits are imposing and that the men (also as well as Sam herself) cannot help noticing, then to the woman who doesn't like other women and wants to be one of the boys (only it doesn't work and she gets fired), then to the woman consultant who can only speak truth to the powerless, and then finally comes back around to herself: she herself is to blame because she doesn't play the game (i.e. ping-pong, in case you were wondering).

Very subtle comic, actually.
posted by jamjam at 2:48 PM on July 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


"I'm sorry, what gave you the idea that you needed to answer this question that I posed to this person?" That way, you're not white-knighting, you're just pointing out that what he did was rude regardless of the male-female dynamic.

Another possibility: use it as a teaching opportunity. My college calculus prof was a trans woman (whom I knew during her transition; one day she started class by telling us "Going forward, my name is Susan, not Richard") who was aware and thoughtful about these issues. One evening, she was reflecting on the day's classroom experience and realized that one male student had been dominating the discussion. This was a particular problem because it was a women's college — undergraduate student body female, graduate student body coed. So here they were in a classroom setting that was explicitly female-centric, with a teacher who identified as and strove to be feminist and aware, and this guy was still dominating the conversation.

Professor B called the student in for a meeting and told him, "Just so you know, I'm going to be calling on you less in class. This probably means I'll seem to be ignoring you when you're raising your hand sometimes. This is why I'm doing it: [brief rundown of overall sociological issues]. Please don't be offended, and please feel free to come talk to me at any time about it."

According to Professor B, the student received it fairly well, and future classroom discussions had a gender balance closer to that of the students present .
posted by Lexica at 2:52 PM on July 5, 2014 [7 favorites]


That way, you're not white-knighting, you're...

...just being kind of a jerk. I'm not about to call out every instance of interjection in a scientific lab where people, including women, debate as a matter of course. Internet heroics don't work so well in the real world.
posted by klanawa at 2:59 PM on July 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


"I'm sorry, what gave you the idea that you needed to answer this question that I posed to this person?"

But this relies on an existing norm of exclusive conversations, which isn't a norm that existed at my school or any of my internships. Actually, at those internships, the whole office was open-plan with the explicit goal of encouraging public conversations that random people nearby could join. And I think that's a feature. I've had the experience of asking the wrong person, not knowing that someone much more informed was sitting one desk over.

I guess you could reply that our priorities are not the same and you think it'd be worth some loss in communication and openness to encourage women to speak, but that's not a pure win and as long as we're just bean-plating on the internet with no time constraints, I'd like to keep looking for less expensive options.
posted by d. z. wang at 3:00 PM on July 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


Work hierarchy matters. If you're the supervisor, you can interrupt the man's answer and direct the question back to the woman. If you're a colleague, at the end of his answer, you can say something milder like "Uh huh, but I actually wanted Anne's answer. Anne, what do you think?" and if you're a subordinate, you can say something like "Thanks for that answer. Anne, was there anything else I should know?"
posted by viggorlijah at 3:17 PM on July 5, 2014 [11 favorites]


...there are some handy recent examples, including Julie Horvath at Github and Whitney Wolfe at Tinder...

I'd heard of these, but didn't know they involved conflict over technical discussions. Could you give me some pointers covering that aspect of the histories?
posted by Coventry at 3:25 PM on July 5, 2014


Wow. Are we playing Derail/Deflect/Distract bingo here?
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:38 PM on July 5, 2014 [14 favorites]


That way, you're not white-knighting, you're...

...just being kind of a jerk. I'm not about to call out every instance of interjection in a scientific lab where people, including women, debate as a matter of course.


Even one where, by your own admission, "The lab is about half women, but still a very macho environment. Everyone seems to reflexively perpetuate the same pattern: if there's a man around, ask him. And the confidence gap is huge."?

You've decided that not being a jerk is better than arresting this pattern or addressing this gap. Bully for you.
posted by Etrigan at 4:10 PM on July 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


To be less sarcastic about it, klanawa -- I don't think you're a horrible person for not standing up to this pattern. It's fucking hard to walk the nth-dimensional tightrope between "jerk" and "white knight" and "social justice warrior" and "creeper" and whatall else. And just recognizing the problem is a step in the right direction.

But progress isn't easy, and sometimes we have to be the change we want to see, y'know?
posted by Etrigan at 4:20 PM on July 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


Yes, it's hard to know what to do, but it's easy to tell other people what to do.
posted by klanawa at 4:39 PM on July 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Some possibly useful resources for anyone looking for solid, documentary evidence of a commonsensical phenomenon regularly reported by women in technology.

The Geek Feminism timeline of incidents - going from Leah Culver getting destroyed for not knowing how to round in Python to Hans Reiser killing his wife.

The brogrammer's guide to derailing - this is about race rather than gender, but is a pretty good, and amusing, examination of the tactics used in arguments about amendments. (Julie Horvath has said that her code was reverted for no reason by a male engineer, although Github denies it).

In fact, Model View Culture as a whole is worth a look. The Management issue might be relevant.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:43 PM on July 5, 2014 [15 favorites]


I thought MetaFilter was largely on board with the idea that you can like something and still discuss the things about it that are problematic without invalidating the things that are good.

I've read many of your posts for many years and have no clue as to how one could make this statement based on this thread. Brandon Blatcher's comment was prompt and sarcastic and with no qualifications-- a stark, single observation. I don't see how a reading of their comment could be:
Maybe they "like" the piece overall, but have a problem with this part.
The reading is: Of all the things to notice about this piece, its hypocrisy should be noted.

But it doesn't end there when confusion results in the proffering of a reversal of intention, only. Not concede the single objection was likely without merit or weak or likely typical of the topic at hand.

In the meantime, the derail of 'hypocrisy' then explained *ahem* by a few others, and now you included, by insisting the problemtic panel is problematic, after several alternative textual readings are offered.

On Board? You intone? What's on the board is implied and sarcastic drivel repeatedly propped up. How 'bout the comment was just plain wrong. When the topic is related to feminism, how 'bout when mealy, intoned criticism is offered up, it's called out and a spade is called a digging tool.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 5:23 PM on July 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


The reading is: Of all the things to notice about this piece, its hypocrisy should be noted.

brendan blatcher did not use the word hypocrisy, that was someone else

but i guess we're way past the point where facts matter

there's a lot of subjectivity and assumption making in that comic - i think that the assumption that subtle sexism is at work at the office described is justified - but as the comic points out, it's a murky and confusing issue and the woman's assumptions about mark's home life do more to confuse things than to clear them up
posted by pyramid termite at 6:17 PM on July 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


Something is definitely her fault in some way. I think on that we can agree.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:22 PM on July 5, 2014 [6 favorites]


Thanks for putting that together, squabble.
posted by Coventry at 6:22 PM on July 5, 2014


>>Julie Horvath at Github....
> I'd heard of these, but didn't know they involved conflict over technical discussions. Could you give me some pointers covering that aspect of the histories?


how about this?
Despite GitHub’s generally female-friendly environment, Horvath claims: “I had a really hard time getting used to the culture, the aggressive communication on pull requests and how little the men I worked with respected and valued my opinion,”
and this
According to Horvath, the engineer, “hurt from my rejection, started passive-aggressively ripping out my code from projects we had worked on together without so much as a ping or a comment. I even had to have a few of his commits reverted. I would work on something, go to bed, and wake up to find my work gone without any explanation.”
maybe just a jilted lover? Read on:
The employee in question, according to Horvath, is both “well-liked at GitHub” and “popular in the community.”
posted by morganw at 6:23 PM on July 5, 2014


Blatcher sarcastically said they liked a part they didn't. Running fest called it out as confusing, I agreed and adipocere offered up the interpretation of 'hypocrisy' that Blatcher would later confirm by affirming the panel was problematic for them.

I've not misattributed meaning to the comments.

The single panel has been repeatedly analyzed and the thread has fractured along binary lines: Problematic/Hypocritical & Viable/Contextual

You're asserting the former. I disagree.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 6:24 PM on July 5, 2014


I like how she says she can't know if Mark's shitty behavior is because she's a woman, then proceeds to say what Mark's home life is like.

As other people have said, that's probably her paranoia speaking - but that would be a problem in itself. Her work environment discriminates against women in a way that can only be demonstrated statistically, if at all.1 That means that she's constantly being forced to speculate about her co-workers' motives, which adds a whole extra burden on top of the stuff she has to deal with anyway.

It seems to me that this is like stop-and-search policies that clearly discriminate against black men, even though any individual search is arguably justified. It isn't just the direct harm caused by unnecessary searches; there's also the changes of attitude and behaviour among people affected by this lower-level racism: they have to continuously ask themselves how their behaviour might be interpreted by unfriendly authority figures, which forces them to treat these authority figures with more caution than would otherwise be warranted.

1 There are some things you can't even demonstrate statistically because the presence of observers will disrupt the effect. See also, Hawthorne Effect.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:37 PM on July 5, 2014 [7 favorites]


(At this point, continuing to talk about this one panel to the exclusion of the broader question of women in tech feels like acceding to the demands of a derail which demands that tender, bruised manfeelings be given the place of honor in the thread.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:55 PM on July 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


See also, Hawthorne Effect.

The insight of your post, its analogy and validity, is spot on to me while not exclusionary of what others have expressed: Wives offered up as "my black friend" and other reports of knowing too many intimate details from male coworkers from questions along the lines of, "You're a woman, explain this."
posted by lazycomputerkids at 6:56 PM on July 5, 2014


I thinks she's spot on. I'm glad I saw this.
posted by Pudhoho at 7:11 PM on July 5, 2014


Here is the thread about Horvath. Here is the one about Wolfe. If you read the events described in the posts you will see that both women experienced considerable dismissal of their professional expertise, to the detriment of their careers, in workplace settings where they were ostensibly present explicitly to use that expertise. In Wolfe's case, she was pushed out of her founder role in a social media company explicitly because of her gender and age.
This was such easy information to find I am having an ungenerous and suspicious impulse to characterize your request for pointers as a rhetorical expression of skepticism or a derailing/distracting tactic.
posted by gingerest at 7:44 PM on July 5, 2014 [6 favorites]


I don't think the 'reverse sexism' described for men is really an intelligent way of framing the issue. Men being unable to cry in a work environment is just sexism, just the same as the sexism she is talking about. Framing it as "reverse sexism" implies there's a gender divide on sexism, with sexism against female being the norm. Which seems counter-productive to make teams on the issue. Sexism is sexism, regardless of which is the more traditional kind.

I totally agree with her comments and I don't have a lot of answers, but I would suggest that those in authority have a fantastic opportunity to shape how the staff are treated. The shown issue where the sexism counselling group was brought in to talk to women instead of men is an issue of management supporting those particular kinds of sexist views. The authority figures should draw lines on treating women like emotional support staff and cutting women out of work situations. That's an easy answer, which is "make management do it".

It's easier to police these behaviours when they appear to others, but the more ingrained sexism is a result of our culture and the way people are taught to treat each other. The strained relationship of father and son is a big part of western culture and I believe part of what causes men to value women the way they do, aside from their relationship with their mother/sister/aunt, is the relationship they have with their father and brother. Men are taught that other men hold all the power and have all the say in the situation and to think otherwise is to be vulnerable to losing that position among other men. Men need to be cool with other men treating women as equals.
posted by Submiqent at 9:42 PM on July 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


"I'm sorry, what gave you the idea that you needed to answer this question that I posed to this person?"

Terrible advice.

You've decided that not being a jerk is better than arresting this pattern or addressing this gap. Bully for you.

Maybe he wants his subordinates to take him seriously.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 9:46 PM on July 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Oh, sorry, Mike, but I think Julie was speaking?"
posted by ChuraChura at 10:08 PM on July 5, 2014 [9 favorites]


Oh man, this comic describes a lot of what I've been thinking about over the last few months.

So to make a long story a bit shorter, I work in STEM, specifically manufacturing. My job is really cool to me, in that I get to put stuff together and I get to make stuff. I love making stuff, physically making stuff. Pieces and wires and hammering and all that excellence and I am fantastic at it. I've done it for a decade and could happily do it for another decade with no problems. My workplace is great and I love my job and I always have stuff to do. It's interesting to me, and it's meditative, and I am really good at my job. I just want to highlight that -- I am good at it.

The worst part of my job, without exception, the very worst part, is the periodic attempts I make at certifying my qualifications to do what I do. I grew up doing this, I learned on the job before I was even legally able to be paid for doing the job. So while I'm great at some parts, there are things that are missing off my resume, things I don't know that I should know. So I take courses. STEM courses. Different kinds of courses -- through unis, through trade schools, through job development workshops, whatever.

They are, without exception, full of the steaming piles of bullshit that is a classroom full of young white dudes who think they are hot shit and have no problems with disrespecting, disregarding, lecturing, ignoring, appropriating the ideas, talking over, talking back, interrupting, queue jumping, condescending, patronising, belittling their sole female classmate -- me.

Every time. Every course. Every fucking one.

It gets tiresome. But being constantly, consistently treated as though I cannot possibly know what I am talking about really, really gets to me. I feel myself getting so paranoid. But so much of it isn't stuff I can straight-up point out to say 'this is a sexism thing'. If I bring up the fact that I have had men waving tools that are normally heated to over 400C in operation in my face while they attempt to 'explain' it to me (unwanted, unasked for, inaccurate, condescending explanation), it's a general safety issue and I am right to bring it up if I only ever ever bring it up in terms of "hey, this is dangerous" and never mention anything about the fact that I never, ever see this level of disrespect, this level of threat, pointed, literally pointed, at any of my male classmates. Ever.

It gets really frustrating to have to carefully talk about very tiny, general aspects of the things that are wrong. It is frustrating to know that if I attempt to explain that it is not a good idea to stand behind my chair while I am working and commentate on everything I do, physically blocking me in while they criticise my technique up, down and sideways, I'll get brushed off again with "they don't do that to me". Or "maybe he's right". Or "why are you ungrateful?" Or "he's just trying to help". If I point out that a lot of the times the things they are criticising in their unwanted unasked-for criticism are things that they themselves will be asked to do later down the track in the course to adapt to specific requirements of the materials we work with, I get "well, you shouldn't skip ahead" or "just hang back and let them catch up, eh?" or, most maddeningly, "well, are you sure?"

And it's like, dude, this is my job.

Yes, of course I am fucking sure that handling a tool so that I don't ever fucking melt any of my fucking components and waste my bosses money is in fact something I am very fucking sure of.

But am I just being arrogant? Is it really my fault? Am I somehow contributing to this? Is there something wrong about me? Can I really be sure that they don't do it to themselves too, or that there is a degree of sexism to it, or THAT much sexism involved? Can I actually be certain that, when every fucking thing comes down to my word against theirs, I won't just make myself look like a stupid, paranoid idiot of an arrogant twat who thinks she can hurr hurr do her job, look at that crazy arrogant bitch.

It does my head in. Every single course I've taken, I've quit. Not because of the sexism, but because dealing with these classmates of mine who question and interrogate and ignore and minimise my experience and my performance really, really impacts how I work. When I get to the point that I start thinking "well, maybe ten years doesn't count that much really", I quit. When I get to the point where I start thinking "maybe this isn't for me", I quit. When I get to the point that I am raking my nails in my wrists between classes to keep myself calm so I don't burst out screaming and prove myself a crazy, irrational harpy who can't fucking take a fucking question what are you getting so het up about you crazy bitch, I quit.

But can I prove any of it? Oh, sure, I can document the endless explanations. I can document "Classmate Z blocked me in my chair and waved an extremely dangerous tool in my face and singed my hair while giving me an unasked for explanation of bullshit that he's fucking wrong about while Classmates A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, and N watched and did nothing". I can document "Classmates N, B, D, E, I, L and P took too many items from the class desk and left me with nothing and sneered at me when I had to go around asking if anyone had extras". I can document "Classmate I explained a basic tool to me. Classmate K explained a basic component to me. Classmate Y talked over me when I answered a teacher's question. Classmate X took (labelled as belonging to my desk) tools off my desk without asking and hid them behind his back when I asked him if he had them and dodged me when I got tired of asking and refused to beg for them and tried to grab for them instead. Classmates K, O, R, T, U and V watched and laughed and did nothing."

(That's all from one two-hour class, by the way.)

But all that looks like is a long goddamn litany of paranoia, and it is soul-crushing to prove to yourself, over and over, that there is not a single classmate of yours that will ever, ever, not for a moment ever, have your back in anything. Every single incident adds up to you are alone here. It's crushing.

But am I just paranoid? Well ... the likelihood is really fucking low.

Can I be sure sure sure sure enough if it's my word against theirs?

No.

So, I quit. And I spend six months learning to love my job and internalising my right to be good at my job all over again, just like the last time I quit a course, and the one before that, and the one before that, and when I see yet more concerned articles about "why aren't there women in STEM?" I think of 400 degrees C of hot metal being waved in my face multiple times by multiple men in multiple incidents of standing over me trapping me in my chair with 400C of pointy metal while they explain something to me without asking or warning or any sign that I am anything but a prop to be threatened into allowing myself to be belittled for the sake of their ego, being treated as "a general safety issue".

I hope I don't regret posting this.
posted by E. Whitehall at 10:37 PM on July 5, 2014 [77 favorites]


I just turned my daughter on to this post. She just took a regional sales mgr position after being harassed by a jackass who just came out of a MBA program and is 15 years younger; told her that her pregnancy impeded her sales abilities although she had double the sales of everyone else in the place. When she confronted him again, he told her it was impossible to for him to be sexist because he let his wife work......
posted by OhSusannah at 11:14 PM on July 5, 2014 [13 favorites]


When she confronted him again, he told her it was impossible to for him to be sexist because he let his wife work......

he "let" his wife work? - now there's an interesting and sexist choice of words right there
posted by pyramid termite at 5:47 AM on July 6, 2014 [7 favorites]


A frustrating thing about many modern iterations of sexism is that it can be very subtle.

Same for homophobia. It's not all 'God Hates Fags' or 'Adam and Steve' or 'Thank God for AIDS'. It's a strange catalogue of weird social malfunctions, of glitches in the human system. Otherwise reasonable and nice people who say things which just lead you down a path of what-the-fuckety-fuck?

Outright hostility and viciousness is old fashioned. Subtle, surreal, brain-swizzling oddness that you can never properly pin down as malicious is its replacement. It's those strange off-hand comments that a co-worker makes that could either be completely innocent or a tremendously offensive insult. It's the surreal joke wrapped up in four layers of irony and misdirection—and when you try and parse it, it transforms into a puff of nothingness.
posted by tommorris at 6:03 AM on July 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


men not being able to cry at work is one of the ways that the patriarchy hurts men - by and large women aren't enforcing that role, other men are - i think it's unhelpful to describe that as sexism. also, while men can't cry at work, they can slam their fist down, raise their voice, hit door frames, and generally blow their tops but are rarely called emotional for it.
posted by nadawi at 6:43 AM on July 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Is anyone else somewhat bothered by the comment of "if you have a penis"? I highly doubt trans women get taken more seriously.
posted by divabat at 7:48 AM on July 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


You mean, in the seventh panel? I read that as clarifying, intentionally or not, that, since all the execs have already been identified as white men, they were also all cis men.

Sam says "if there isn't a penis or an MBA involved, a decision cannot be made", so theoretically there might be an executive with an MBA but without a penis... but I think it's safe to assume that Sam's white, male-run working environment is going to be cissexist as well as sexist.

(I agree that using penis as a metonym for "man" is not great practice, though, certainly.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:16 AM on July 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm a male software developer working in a remote sensing lab. On at least one occasion, I've directed a question specifically to a female grad student. A male grad student interjected, she deferred to him and I ended up getting my answer from him. But it was a question she could easily have answered.

It doesn't take a lot of extra time to say, "kat518, what do you think? Do you have anything to add? Would you have described it differently?" I know everyone is busy but that would be an investment of less than five minutes of your time showing both students that her perspective matters and I think it would generate good returns.
posted by kat518 at 9:01 AM on July 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


Is it the "she deferred to him" part that's giving pause? Because as his peer, she's going to get more flack for interrupting him than he will over interrupting her. Women are socialized not to interrupt others speaking, especially men. A woman who speaks as often as a man in a conversation is perceived as speaking more often. He's already shown he doesn't respect the question being directed at her, so it's even less likely he'll accept her interrupting him, so at this point she's getting spoken over by him, and this has gone unchallenged by the original questioner, so her feedback from the two parties to the conversation is "it's fine for a man to speak over me".

She's in a no-win, conversationally. For her to speak up will cost her social points with her peer. For her supervisor to speak up and say, hey I asked Kate, or less pointedly, Kate, what do you think, is going to make a much bigger difference.

Part of my work environment is deeply sexist, and I have to constantly make an effort to ask women to speak up and to tell men to listen. I'm not great at it, I fail often and it is difficult to know where personality (she's an introvert! he's a talker!) meets sexism. But part of my job as a manager is to look for patterns and intervene, not shrug it off. Because the end of it is that you lose talented women.
posted by viggorlijah at 9:26 AM on July 6, 2014 [11 favorites]


When people share anecdotes in these threads, it's awesome. By far, I think, it's the most interesting and valuable type of contribution. Sure, there is a degree to which those experiences then become fair game for discussion; but I think we can also be mindful of promoting a contributive atmosphere by not jumping all over them. Maybe consider whether the point has been mined sufficiently, and whether further batting-around will actually move the ball forward more than it may discourage people from sharing.
posted by cribcage at 9:38 AM on July 6, 2014 [8 favorites]


Something is definitely her fault in some way. I think on that we can agree.

I'm sure the thing that's wrong is that she got born female. Same as always.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:02 AM on July 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm a male software developer working in a remote sensing lab. On at least one occasion, I've directed a question specifically to a female grad student. A male grad student interjected, she deferred to him and I ended up getting my answer from him. But it was a question she could easily have answered.

You allowed that male grad student to be rude to you as well. I would suggest that in the future with anyone who does that you gently guide the conversation back to "I am sorry but I asked the question to ....." and go from there. No need perpetuating bad behavior...sexist or not.
posted by OhSusannah at 11:41 AM on July 6, 2014 [9 favorites]


Most microaggressions aren't intentional or even consciously aggressive. So my favorite approach is just to point them out without putting anyone (including the aggressor or the aggressed) too much on the spot.

So, "Wow, you just totally cut her off!" "Ewww, that's creepy. Don't do that."

The primary indicator that I'm really old is that I have all these grandma stories:

Very very early in my career, within the first couple of months of my first grownup job, I got white knighted by one of my company's founders. He'd drafted me for a technical standards project, and in the first meeting, I brought up some point and was completely ignored. And then the founder guy said the same thing I had, and people responded to him.

He pointed this out, and then he gave everyone a big fat lecture and yelled at them for ignoring me, and everyone stared at me. I was still really young and insecure, and until he told people he'd hand picked me, I'd actually suspected I was put on that committee by accident somehow. And at a very basic level, what happened was that everyone else just got yelled at because of me, which made me a little more reticent to talk in those meetings, because I felt like people were only paying attention out of obligation and I didn't want to get anyone in trouble.

I was really young and really new. They probably didn't know who I was, and most of the women at that company were in administrative roles, especially the younger ones. It was an understandable mistake, and all it needed, IMO, was a gentle pointing out, at least at first. It was a bad habit, but it was still potentially just a habit that needed pointing out.

If he'd just said, "Whoa, guys! She JUST said that. Pay attention!" instead of laying into them. Or even taken them aside later and told them, when I wasn't there trying to figure out what sort of face to make.

I genuinely appreciated the sentiment, and that guy's support and encouragement played a huge role in me learning to trust my own competence. But I still, four hundred years later, cringe a little when I'm reminded of that specific incident.
posted by ernielundquist at 11:58 AM on July 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


divabat: "Is anyone else somewhat bothered by the comment of "if you have a penis"? I highly doubt trans women get taken more seriously."

Yeah, I actually had been meaning to post something about this, along with the 'Lack of Penis Syndrome' stuff in the previous women-in-tech thread. I dearly wish people would be a little more careful with this sort of thing; I can absolutely testify to the comic ringing true as hell and making excellent points, but I can also testify that my penis historically failed to shine through and have my work contributions respected by men. That in fact, in those office environments where people knew I was a trans woman, I was spoken over and condescended to and harassed just as much by men, but also subjected to similar stuff by other women from time to time. In no way did it help matters.

It might sound minor, but it really is like a little punch in the gut when you totally recognise your experience as a woman in something like this, then have the author shut you out - even when it's through thoughtlessness rather than malice, it's still a reminder that the sort of woman I am simply isn't at the forefront of most feminists' minds. And I can absolutely promise that there are a good number of TERFy types who read things like this and take them as encouragement to continue acting as if misogynist behaviour radiates from the genitals, so a moment's care is well worth taking.
posted by emmtee at 12:17 PM on July 6, 2014 [21 favorites]


emmtee, thank you for making that point so clearly. I'm as guilty as anyone of the "dress for success, wear a white penis!" kind of talk, and I will now be looking for a replacement metaphor to deploy in these circumstances.
posted by KathrynT at 7:26 PM on July 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


...they will address their answers and their gazes at my male coworkers. Not at me...I don't know how much of this is because I'm inexperienced, and how much of it is because I'm a woman.

Mellifluous, I could have written this, damn near word for word. (Sub "New York" for "San Francisco.") Thank you for your comment. The same thing happens to me all. the. time.
posted by the_blizz at 7:41 PM on July 6, 2014


Ernielundquist wrote: I brought up some point and was completely ignored. And then the founder guy said the same thing I had, and people responded to him.

He pointed this out, and then he gave everyone a big fat lecture [...]


Do you think might have been trying to find an opportunity to lecture people? If so, it does sound heavy-handed. I think I would have handled bit by repeating your point as your point: "If we can come back to what ernielundquist said ...", or something like that. That would have both turned the conversation back to whatever needed to be said, and reminded people that they should be paying attention to everyone at the meeting.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:49 PM on July 6, 2014


> It's been worst in the young trendy informal kinda places, and (maybe surprisingly? I don't know) generally better in traditional stuffy engineering environments with more process structure and transparency.

> Also: "the other (male) programmer decided to forego using the [source control] tool altogether and just release off of his own machine." Assuming this wasn't some kind of emergency hot-fix, that would be a ridiculous violation of every release process I've heard of. Reading this gives me the same eerie Twilight-Zone feeling as from that other thread where the Tinder guy was harassing a direct report in writing. I just struggle to imagine the sort of environment where this wouldn't be a huge release process violation and your coworker wouldn't get pulled aside "for a chat" on purely technical grounds.

This is related, I am sure. I see the ideas "waterfall is wrong", "change review boards are slowing us down", "we're drowning in meetings" change from appropriate criticisms of development practices into a juggernaut meme of "disrupt! here's to the crazy ones! destroy the hierarchy!" They try to be as productive as a startup by cargo-cult-ishly throwing away rules.

If you don't have written rules, you are not free of rules. You now have unwritten rules. Unwritten rules foment sexism: they hinge on the tradition of the leaders. The traditions start in a culture that is not free of sexism, so the unwritten rules retain exclusionary behavior.
posted by Monochrome at 7:52 PM on July 6, 2014 [9 favorites]


I mean jeez, it's like they read Lord of the Flies and the lesson they got was "Don't hire Piggy for your startup."
posted by Monochrome at 8:12 PM on July 6, 2014 [5 favorites]


as well. I would suggest that in the future with anyone who does that you gently guide the conversation back to "I am sorry but I asked the question to ....." and go from there. No need perpetuating bad behavior...sexist or not.

Yeah, one way of looking at these situations is that there is rude and unprofessional behavior going on and the sexism is in failing to recognize it as such when it's directed at women. So one way for supervisors to deal with the problem of "Is this micro-agresssion actually sexist?" is to recognize that you can call out the behavior without having to make a judgement about what motivated it.

The Beau works at Google, and he and I think all the men in his office had to do "unconscious bias" training that addressed this kind of stuff. He seemed to think it was really smart way of handling it because it was entirely stats and things which are the kind of things engineers listen to.

On the other hand, it's important to address the problem of sexism itself, and this strikes me as a really promising way of doing it. Frame the problem as, "One common cognitive error made by many engineers is to underestimate the talent and experience of women and minorities. This error leads to incorrect evaluations of the ideas and work output of women and minorities, resulting in reduced productivity, unnecessary duplication of effort, failure to efficiently find optimal solutions to problems, etc."

Because sexism isn't just morally wrong, it's also stupid. And engineers hate to be stupid.
posted by straight at 8:50 AM on July 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm a bit behind the times, but I just wanted to thank you, Librarypt, and everyone else who commented on this post. I work in a software company right now, but I have a biology background and have always felt things were just a little off compared to biology labs and companies I've worked in.

I sent the link to a couple of friends in my office and got back resounding "THIS!!!"s. Now we're talking about trying to push for change somehow. We don't know how, but this is more progress on this front than I've ever seen in my time here. So thank you for giving me the vocabulary to talk about this problem.

If anyone has any suggestions for how to broach this subject in a smallish company with no real HR department, I'd love to hear them - I'm intrigued by the "unconscious bias training" mentioned earlier, since the real tricky part will be actually getting the rest of the (80% white and male) office to listen.
posted by daelin at 6:04 PM on July 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


I wonder if some of the research submitting identical resumes with male/female names/pictures could be rebranded along the lines of "foolish managers allowing irrelevant details to distract them into missing the relevant data."
posted by straight at 7:39 AM on July 8, 2014


Straight, my experience is that everybody thinks they're smart, nobody thinks that they fall into cognitive errors. So they may well go "Ha ha, silly managers," while not even recognising that they're committing similar errors all the time. Résumé's are comparatively easy to assess in a gender-neutral fashion: match years of experience in relative fields, look at their work in a blind test, you're done. You can follow it up with a subjective assessment, but if you consistently get different results for male and female applicants at least you know you have a problem. In contrast, the cognitive errors in an office environment are ever so much subtler. Looking back at the comic in the FPP, there's the "why did you give the report to Julio" one. Well, maybe he was available, maybe it didn't seem like such a big deal, maybe he dismissed her urgency or thought that she was a bitch. Who knows. When she has to spend more time justifying her ideas, she might be wrong about that, or bad at communicating, or lack confidence, or perhaps her co-workers tend to dismiss what she has to say. The point of the FPP is that any individual event is probably justifiable, and it's hard to even demonstrate that a pattern exists.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:28 PM on July 8, 2014


I guess I'm wondering if there is a way to harness the pleasure of correcting other people's mistakes by branding sexism as a mistake.
posted by straight at 6:41 AM on July 9, 2014


To elaborate, it seems from the typical defensive reactions we see that the current message sexist men are hearing (regardless of what is actually said) is something like, "If you're sexist, that makes you a bad person." I'm wondering if there's a way to frame things so they hear, "If your ideas and decisions are distorted by sexism, that makes you less smart, less efficient, less effective."

Because groups of men aren't typically competing to be the least bad person in the room, but they're always competing to be the smartest guy in the room. It might be worth putting more emphasis on shaming the stupidity of sexism rather than focusing on the injustice of sexism.
posted by straight at 9:16 AM on July 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


"I hope you're not one of those idiots who can't recognize a good idea unless a man explains it to you."
posted by straight at 9:18 AM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


"It's not as if you could ever solidly prove that something is sexist. And sexism is a serious allegation to make."

The "evidence" can always be explained away, even when it's not that hard to figure out what's going on.

The owner of the company I work for has ordered me to shut up in meetings -- meetings where I rarely say much of anything -- simply because he dislikes my presence. (I'm a 30-ish woman -- the only 30-ish woman who's a mid-level manager.) At a recent meeting, he slammed a fist on the table and yelled, "I'm sick of hearing you talk! You're finished!" This during a two-minute status update about ongoing projects, something everyone at the meeting is expected to do. Needless to say, I didn't get to finish my presentation. My male colleagues all got 15 or more minutes apiece to present. My direct supervisor doesn't think this is a big deal, even though similar things happen all the time. A particularly abusive man I supervise called me a "stupid bitch who doesn't deserve to hold a job" in front of my boss, simply because I told him he needed to revise a document containing factual errors. I gently suggested to my boss that this guy seems uncomfortable working with a female supervisor. My boss's reply? "Surely you're not suggesting that he's sexist. You know better than that. You need to work on relationship building." I don't think this has to do with my communication style, which is very polite. If anything, I'm way too polite to people who treat me poorly.

I've worked at software startups and media organizations, and this sort of behavior has been the norm at both types of businesses. I hope work like Schrag's will open a few eyes. Then again, people tend to read things that reinforce their existing opinions and biases.

Has anyone here tried framing a discussion of sexism in the way straight suggests? I like that idea.
posted by hifidelity at 3:16 PM on July 26, 2014 [7 favorites]


hifidelity, that's exactly the kind of thing I was talking about. That kind of behavior deserves to be shamed as much for being childish as for being sexist. If that guy is such a delicate flower that can't listen to a report because he can't bear the sound of someone's voice, that just makes him an ineffective manager. If someone can't take critical feedback from his supervisor without getting all dramatic and defensive about it, he needs to be sent back to kindergarten to learn some basic social skills.
posted by straight at 7:18 AM on July 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


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