#iLookLikeAnEngineer
August 6, 2015 8:35 AM   Subscribe

"Hi, my name is Isis. I’m a full-stack engineer at OneLogin." When self-described introvert nerd Isis Anchalee agreed to appear in a "hastily planned and executed" ad campaign for her employers, she didn't expect the internet to decide she couldn't possibly be an engineer based on her looks. She was a model, some said. No "real" engineer would make such a "come-hither" face, some said. It was a transparent attempt to sex up the tech world, some said. Those marketers really screwed this one up, some said.

Except, you know, she was actually just an engineer wearing her own face. Isis has not been thrilled with the attention, but now that #iLookLikeAnEngineer is trending, companies around the globe are showcasing female engineers, female engineers of all kinds are using the hashtag to dispel still-common assumptions, and Anchalee herself is putting together a project to help women in tech connect and support each other.
posted by a fiendish thingy (66 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is a much more interesting background than what I assumed it was initially, seeing the hashtag.

What I had thought was that it was pushing back against yet more misogynistic "women can't be engineers hur hur" bullshit that seems endemic to the industry, not "she's too sexy to be one".
posted by qcubed at 8:38 AM on August 6, 2015


*channels Right Said Fred*
posted by infini at 8:43 AM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Did she have to change her last name because of this? I notice its Wenger in the billboard
posted by infini at 8:47 AM on August 6, 2015


Ignorant tech guys are going to have to do more than tell me I couldn't possibly be able to do my job in order to get me to post pictures on the internet for them. Y'all gotta earn the right to gaze at my visage.
posted by theraflu at 8:51 AM on August 6, 2015 [11 favorites]


If I had $5 for every time some engineer thought I would agree with them that a colleague of mine wasn't a real engineer and didn't deserve their success because they got it from their looks, I could probably retire by now. They think I'd be, like, jealous of the appearance of my colleagues, and could validate that their sexist opinions aren't *really* sexist.

I feel nothing but admiration and solidarity for my colleagues who are women, no matter what they look like and how they dress.
posted by muddgirl at 8:54 AM on August 6, 2015 [13 favorites]


As much as the pushback on the ad is stupid and horrible, I really wish that it was possible to show women in tech without having to start with the most conventionally beautiful engineer possible, or at least start by using a regular photo of the most conventionally beautiful one possible instead of an advertisement-style one. I've always found a lot of the "dress like an IT person" and "I am a [woman] STEM person" ads really alienating, because they read like "you can be a woman in STEM as long as you are hot". And then, of course, it turns out that if you're a woman in STEM and conventionally beautiful, it also sucks, so no one wins.
posted by Frowner at 8:55 AM on August 6, 2015 [31 favorites]


And to think she went to App Academy--one of those bootcamps that seemed to get a lot of side-eye on the Blue.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:02 AM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Every time I read one of these accounts of misogyny in the tech industry it makes me feel better that I've been pushing my daughter to major in marketing/ business. And that sucks.
posted by photoslob at 9:04 AM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not to prosecute that line of conversation even further, but aren't we allowed to give a concept sideeye even if there are good ones because there are a lot of bad ones?

I mean, #NotAllBootcamps are of questionable merit, just like #NotAllForProfitColleges are unabashedly evil, sure. A good engineer can come from anywhere.

Doesn't mean that I suddenly have to stop due diligence and being a little bit more skeptical about most that come out of boot camps.
posted by qcubed at 9:07 AM on August 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


a couple of weeks ago, a few folks at my workplace were sharing this listicle from Buzzfeed on "25 Ways to Dress Like A Tech Employee" that was deliciously subversive in similar ways to #ilooklikeanengineer and that it was quietly delightful that more than a few of the pictorial subjects were not 'fashion model hot'
posted by bl1nk at 9:07 AM on August 6, 2015 [9 favorites]


I've been told my whole life (sometimes outright, mostly in insinuations), that as an ugly girl and then an ugly woman, I couldn't get anywhere, didn't deserve anything, would never amount to anything. I've been insulted, but far more often I've been ignored, passed over. Sometimes it has been suggested to me that if only I was attractive...oh well. All around me I saw pretty girls, then pretty woman, get the attention, the jobs, the boyfriends, the everything. And that was unfair, but, I thought, it was the way of the world. It was better that some women could have an equal shot, even if all women couldn't. At least the feminist movement had achieved something for some of us.

But now I see all these pretty women who, having achieved all the things I was advised I could never achieve, being told they can't have or shouldn't have achieved anything either, simply because they're pretty. They just get smacked down with the other side of the same 2x4. I wonder how many women engineers who are not as beautiful as Isis didn't even get asked to pose. I wonder how many did, but said no, knowing the abuse their image on the poster would be subject to? I wonder what exactly does the world want from us?

Btw I don't work in a STEM field or even a particularly traditionally male one. I'm just mad.
posted by ocksay_uppetpay at 9:08 AM on August 6, 2015 [43 favorites]


This is a gross generalization, but in my male-dominated STEM field, many men seem to find it easier to deal with plain women, because they just pretend I'm a dude.
posted by muddgirl at 9:23 AM on August 6, 2015 [7 favorites]


I can imagine doubting that ad. She is really pretty, even in #ILookLikeAnEngineer selfie, and in the ad she's placed between a couple of pretty stereotypical looking programmer dudes. I mean, one of them is wearing sunglasses and a top hat. And it's not fair, it's judgmental and prejudiced, etc etc, but it's a subway ad. I can imagine it showing up here in Boston. I can imagine joking about it with my friends while waiting for the subway. I can even imagine making snarky comments about it online (although, again, my attention would go the dude in the top hat.) I wouldn't doubt her if I met her at a party, but as much as I'd like to think myself above it, faced with the print ad, I perpetuate those stereotypes too.

That said, holy shit, what kind of backwards thick-skulled Neanderthal lunkheaded fucker do you have to be to throw dollar bills at a coworker in your office. What the fuck, man bro?
posted by maryr at 9:25 AM on August 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


I can imagine doubting that ad. She is really pretty, even in #ILookLikeAnEngineer selfie, and in the ad she's placed between a couple of pretty stereotypical looking programmer dudes.

Is she really more pretty than the guy on her right is handsome? (the photo is not good quality - but he doesn't look bad to me) Or is it that we're used to looking at a woman first for her appearance, vs. men whose appearance is only one part of how we judge them?
posted by muddgirl at 9:31 AM on August 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


Anyway, looking at this hashtag makes me want to up my fashion game (in that I have little to no game).
posted by maryr at 9:32 AM on August 6, 2015


In my opinion, yes, she is more pretty than the guy next to her is handsome. By a lot. (I don't find the guy good looking, but I don't have a great view of the ad.)

I really sincerely think she is very pretty.
posted by maryr at 9:33 AM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Note that in the subway ads the dude quotes are all "My code is important! I have autonomy to do what needs to be done!" and the quote they use for her is "I like my coworkers!"
posted by straight at 9:42 AM on August 6, 2015 [38 favorites]


These normal shots of people with stilted quotes are way better than those terrible Dice ads.
posted by demiurge at 9:43 AM on August 6, 2015


straight - I did notice that and I did not love it.
posted by maryr at 9:45 AM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Is it possible to criticize the choices made by the marketing department without criticizing the participants in the ad?

I really do not think that if they had picked a "more stereotypical" female engineer, or a different pull quote, that we would not be having this conversation. Because no matter what you look like, it is a federal crime to be a woman in public. Either you're too pretty, or you're not fuckable and thus not worth anyone's attention.
posted by muddgirl at 9:51 AM on August 6, 2015 [15 favorites]


It was a transparent attempt to sex up the tech world, some said… Except, you know, she was actually just an engineer wearing her own face.

Both could be true surely? Doubting the veracity of the ad because you think women can't be engineers is obviously just very sexist, but doubting the veracity of the ad because you know that sexist advertisers routinely use images of attractive women in irrelevant contexts is sort of the opposite of sexist. And the fact that she's genuinely an engineer doesn't automatically exonerate the marketers of the charge, since they presumably made the selection of images from a wider range of possible ones.
posted by oliverburkeman at 9:53 AM on August 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


It was a transparent attempt to sex up the tech world, some said… Except, you know, she was actually just an engineer wearing her own face.

And this is the damned if you do, damned if you don't - if they'd used a photo of an average woman (a woman of non-standard beauty!) that would be used to "prove" that women in tech are ugly/unfeminine/etc, because you couldn't put, like, a chubby girl in a fascinator next to tophat dude. You couldn't put a butch queer woman on the ad, even if she were a butch queer fashion model.

I think it's because these ads always end up keeping the the patriarchal gaze in mind, so first they can't have just pictures of a variety of women of all appearances, because women have to be beautiful to be allowed to appear in ads; second, they can't say 'women might like representations of all kinds of women instead of just one beautiful heteronormative one', because the assumption is that women don't go into tech because women are worried that going into tech means that they will be seen as unattractive, so naturally we need to prove that there are attractive women in tech; many extremely vocal tech dudes are confused between the whole 'want to fuck hot women lol no fat chicks' thing and the 'hot women are stupid' thing and it's difficult to craft a message about women in STEM that will be not produce rage, because that type of dude basically doesn't want women in the workplace.
posted by Frowner at 10:00 AM on August 6, 2015 [20 favorites]


For me, I would have thought they were all stock images. A non-offensive looking person in a t-shirt is an extremely common stock image. Every time you go buy a t-shirt it's the same model, except with a different color or graphic super imposed over the shirt!

The only one that I wouldn't suspect right away of being a t-shirt model is top hat guy. So I guess my advice to all marketers trying to make real looking ads is to use totally ridiculous hats.
posted by FJT at 10:06 AM on August 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


FJT: "For me, I would have thought they were all stock images. A non-offensive looking person in a t-shirt is an extremely common stock image. Every time you go buy a t-shirt it's the same model, except with a different color or graphic super imposed over the shirt!

The only one that I wouldn't suspect right away of being a t-shirt model is top hat guy. So I guess my advice to all marketers trying to make real looking ads is to use totally ridiculous hats.
"

Oh crap, on top of everything else, I learn I am a stock photo? Damn you, Metafilter, damn you to hell!
posted by Samizdata at 10:41 AM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


There was a woman who lived across from me my first year in college who was an engineering major (she was a junior on a hall of first-years! poor thing!). She was blonde and very pretty, and was from Tennessee and sounded like it. She was often on the receiving end of a ton of stupid assumptions because of her gender, hair color, and accent.
posted by rtha at 10:44 AM on August 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


I applaud the efforts to break the gender and race stereotypes behind engineers and tech workers - It's a huge up-hill battle. What really pains me so much about all of this is that no matter what discussions she starts on this - positive or negative - I am already confident that this will somehow (if it hasn't already) lead to death and other threats directed towards her because she made the mistake of being a woman with a public voice. Let's hope that I'm proved wrong on this.
posted by MysticMCJ at 10:51 AM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


My favourite part about this was the fight about whether you can call yourself an engineer if you don't have an engineering degree. I'm going to have to try hard to break myself of the habit when I move back to Canada where they take that title pretty seriously.
posted by Space Coyote at 10:51 AM on August 6, 2015


There's plenty to criticize about the crazy reaction to the ad, although like muddgirl says, it would have happened no matter what the woman in question looked like, because it's basically a crime to be a woman in public associated with things that men think they have a right to, ie, everything.

The ad itself? Not so much. It's a picture of a woman in a t-shirt, who isn't even wearing a lot of makeup or with particularly fancy hair. It doesn't look photoshopped. She's not sticking her boobs out or twisting her hips. She's just a normal-looking woman, in a t-shirt, ie startup casual work-appropriate clothing. The fact that misogynist trolls are acting like it's sexualized is unsurprising, since they're exactly the kind of people who believe that women are fundamentally the sex class, but it's sad and frankly embarrassing to see (supposedly feminist!!) MeFites criticizing her appearance, comparing her "level of hotness" to male co-workers, and making comments using logic that wouldn't be out of place with the genders reversed, coming from the keys of a neckbeard angry about how it's "unfair" that dumb jocks get all the girls and none for schlubby dudes like them. It's just another version of "real women have curves" type garbage, with a healthy dose of sexual entitlement.

I expect dudes on reddit and 4chan to get into discussions of the aesthetic merits of a woman in a completely non-sexualized image. Seeing it here is just revolting.

And the fact that she's genuinely an engineer doesn't automatically exonerate the marketers of the charge, since they presumably made the selection of images from a wider range of possible ones.

It's an ad for a specific company, made by that specific company, that the woman in question works for as an engineer. It's not sexed up, it's not more glammed up than those with her male co-workers, and if the implication is they should have picked some other, less pretty female engineer who works for them because Isis Anchalee is too pretty, that's insane and horrible. Seriously, some people are being unbelievably gross in the guise of analysis or criticism and it would be awesome if y'all would stop.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 10:57 AM on August 6, 2015 [17 favorites]


This is an engineer, & her hipster brother. Working in electrical component testing for Lockheed Martin. Got there by virtue of BUSTING HER ASS in high school & acting as wiring lead on her school's First Robotics team 2 years in a row. She's right next door to Orion & wants in there bad.

Parents -- raise your children to follow their strengths regardless of gender & interesting things will happen. I taught her to be skeptical & inquiring as a small child, & my two proudest moments as a parent were first, the time when she came home from school at age 9 & said "I heard you can dissolve a nail in Coca-Cola overnight... and I want to see if it works!" so we put three nails out -- 1 dry, 1 in water & one in coke ("Dad, we need a control") & well, nothing happened to any of the nails (Myth BUSTED! Booya!); and second, when at age 14 she asked for a soldering iron for her birthday.

It really sucks that the person in this ad is taking so much flak. Her critics are stupid idiots.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:13 AM on August 6, 2015 [9 favorites]


It's not sexed up, it's not more glammed up than those with her male co-workers, and if the implication is they should have picked some other, less pretty female engineer who works for them because Isis Anchalee is too pretty, that's insane and horrible.

But the thing is, they didn't draw her picture out of a hat (as far as we know; I think that information would have been included if it were the case). They picked her. They didn't pick a fat butch woman; they didn't pick a woman with a buzzcut; they didn't pick a forty-year-old. And what's more, they wouldn't have done any of those things no matter how many pictures they had to choose from, because those are not ways that it is acceptable to depict women.

Women always have to be heteronormatively beautiful to appear in ads, and that hurts everyone concerned. I don't think that it makes sense to pretend that women are picked to represent professions/companies/etc at random, that it's mere coincidence that women in ads are virtually always heteronormatively beautiful and that it's somehow insulting to feminism to point out that heteronormative beauty is a requirement for women to be made visible in public. Much less that somehow the omnipresence of heteronormatively beautiful women in ads has no influence on how women - heteronormatively beautiful or not - feel about themselves.
posted by Frowner at 11:13 AM on August 6, 2015 [20 favorites]


Women always have to be heteronormatively beautiful to appear in ads, and that hurts everyone concerned.

I don't mean to gainsay you, as you have a very valid point. However, it's important for society to be informed that heteronormatively attractive women can also be smart & do things with their brains. They are sides of the same coin, part of the same struggle.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:16 AM on August 6, 2015 [10 favorites]


a couple of weeks ago, a few folks at my workplace were sharing this listicle from Buzzfeed on "25 Ways to Dress Like A Tech Employee" that was deliciously subversive in similar ways

Based on the listicle, I can conclude that Buzzfeed tech employees are relatively young, have unique and mostly put-together personal styles, and are 100% female. Is that the subversive part? Or do they not have any male tech staff that don't wear a top hat and neckbeard to work?

It's fantastic for Buzzfeed to celebrate the personal styles of their female engineers and designers without sexualizing them, but they kind of totem-ize them by selecting only the young, pretty women. Hard for me to believe there isn't also a lanky dude who runs a street fashion blog and idolizes Hedi Slimane who also cranks code, or an androgynous project manager West Coastie who watched Godspeed You Black Emperor one too many times.

I bet they would LOVE to be included.
posted by a halcyon day at 11:17 AM on August 6, 2015


But the sinister side of the origin of #iLookLikeAnEngineer is it's equal parts #TooPrettyToThink and #HurfDurfGirlsCan't(x), and it goes beyond women in STEM.

I received sincere advice when searching for a dentist to avoid the attractive ones, because they didn't study obsessively in school like the nerdy or dowdy ones.
posted by a halcyon day at 11:21 AM on August 6, 2015


I don't mean to gainsay you, as you have a very valid point. However, it's important for society to be informed that heteronormatively attractive women can also be smart & do things with their brains. They are sides of the same coin, part of the same struggle.

I think that this is where the problem with single representations comes in. We here would (hopefully) not be having this conversation if there were three pictures of different women, or one picture of many different women. Lots of pictures of women would illustrate well that heteronormatively beautiful women can STEM, and gender non-conforming women can STEM, and fortyish women can STEM, etc.

It occurs to me that this is the difference between advertisers who pursue diverse representations and advertisers who pursue tokenistic representations.
posted by Frowner at 11:23 AM on August 6, 2015 [7 favorites]


I don't know, Frowner, I think you may be coming at this from the wrong angle. The stereotype that people expected was a plain, non-conventionally pretty woman, perhaps even overweight. It was the fact that this woman wasn't like that stereotype that lead people to accuse her of just being a model, or not really an engineer.

I'm not sure where you're getting the idea that only attractive people can be in STEM, when for the longest time the stereotypes for both genders have been the opposite: the tech guy was overweight, neckbeardy, not in shape, the same for a woman. A guy with movie star looks and a great body would be called into question; I know this from firsthand experience from groups I participate in (uh, not saying I'm that guy, just people I've seen).

This seems more about showing that pretty doesn't equal dumb, which is also a stereotype. I feel like in the tech world, the more conventionally attractive you are, the less seriously you'll be taken as a "true" nerd.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:32 AM on August 6, 2015


It occurs to me that this is the difference between advertisers who pursue diverse representations and advertisers who pursue tokenistic representations.

Agreed. It's hard not to be skeptical about advertising, because even with the best intentions, it's still, you know, advertising. The token black friend & the token gay couple still stick out like sore thumbs to me when I catch that shit on TV commercials. They seem to be put there more to make the white middle-class demographic they're actually selling to feel good about themselves as regards to diversity than to actually sell products to diverse groups or make statements about race or sexual orientation.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:35 AM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't mean to gainsay you, as you have a very valid point. However, it's important for society to be informed that heteronormatively attractive women can also be smart & do things with their brains. They are sides of the same coin, part of the same struggle.

And in this specific case, the woman in question is an engineer at this startup, ie, a place with not a whole lot of employees. This belaboring of just how pretty she is or isn't is vile, full stop, especially since it's just contributing to the misogynist idea that a woman's appearance is fair game for criticism, and that a woman just standing around in a t-shirt is being sexual in a way that men doing the same thing are not.

I think that this is where the problem with single representations comes in. We here would (hopefully) not be having this conversation if there were three pictures of different women, or one picture of many different women. Lots of pictures of women would illustrate well that heteronormatively beautiful women can STEM, and gender non-conforming women can STEM, and fortyish women can STEM, etc

It's a startup, okay? A startup. If she actually had been a hired model and not an actual engineer and employee, you would have a point. But she is their employee and is an engineer, and as a startup I would be very surprised if they had enough male employees to make a great show of diversity in the way that you want, so they went with the people who actually worked here. In that context, you are being completely appallingly misogynist, and that would be the case if she looked like a super model, a bridge troll, or anything in between.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 11:36 AM on August 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


They picked her. They didn't pick a fat butch woman; they didn't pick a woman with a buzzcut; they didn't pick a forty-year-old.

We don't know what all their employees look like. I don't know if they have any women with buzzcuts, or forty-year-old women. Do you know that they do? They picked an actual person who works for them as a photo of people who work for them. Tech companies have a problem as it is with diversity, yes - what if this is their only female engineer (so far!) but they want more? What if she's one of four, but the other three aren't comfortable having their photo on public ads?

They have a certain number of real-life actual employees and she's one of them, and if you think they could have done "better," I'd like you to provide some kind of meaningful proof that they chose her over somebody else and shouldn't have done so.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:40 AM on August 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


The disbelief about Isis being an engineer (of course she is one) but a marketing-chosen model is NOT simply because she's a woman (aside: the fact that the name Isis ( a lovely first name that has been spoiled by awareness of the Daesh) was used should be a big clue she is not a model/marketing fiction) .

It's because she's very good looking and software engineers specifically are stereotypically in a crude outdated way supposed to be awkward-looking nerds in the popular imagination. (If such a marketing campaign used male engineers who looked like stunning fashion models there would probably be skepticism also but of lower intensity ( because differences in sexualization of genders under patriarchy ) )

This is what the #Ilooklikeanengineer and #thisiswhatanengineer hashtag campaigns ignore because it's too much of a hot potato ( and well, hashtag campaigns in general are poorly thought out - it's just not the nature of the form) - the original issue was about *high levels of attractiveness* and gender rather than simply gender itself. ( the campaigns also ignore the differences between software engineers and engineers generally , oh well)
posted by Bwithh at 11:41 AM on August 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


They have a certain number of real-life actual employees and she's one of them, and if you think they could have done "better," I'd like you to provide some kind of meaningful proof that they chose her over somebody else and shouldn't have done so.

And yet, it's ever thus. It's always the state of exception - "oh, we could only choose [whatever category, as this applies for advertising in general] this time because of hard limits...and it was hard limits last time, and the time before that, and probably next time it will be hard limits too". It's not like there are another five or six companies out there with ads showing their thin-haired short-necked woman employee, or their middle-aged one. (My actual feeling is that if they didn't have a women engineer who they felt was "good enough" to photograph, they simply wouldn't have had a photo of a woman employee - I actually was part of a cohort, though not in tech, where some of us were photographed as ads for the place, and it was really gross on all levels, particularly the tiptoeing around the "we aren't going to include any of the fat/butch/old women so we have to recruit very discreetly" part". Now I'd just think it was hilarious to watch them all contort themselves to avoid saying 'we only want to photograph the pretty girls' in front of me, but at the time it was really painful and was one reason I left.)


I'm not sure where you're getting the idea that only attractive people can be in STEM, when for the longest time the stereotypes for both genders have been the opposite: the tech guy was overweight, neckbeardy, not in shape, the same for a woman. A guy with movie star looks and a great body would be called into question; I know this from firsthand experience from groups I participate in (uh, not saying I'm that guy, just people I've seen).


What I was trying to get at was that when I see ads which are intended to signal "women can be in [field]", they virtually always show heteronormatively beautiful women, so my feeling as a young 'un was always that no matter who was currently in the field, the women they were trying to recruit were heteronormatively beautiful. Again, I think this is a problem with literal representation.
posted by Frowner at 11:54 AM on August 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


I add that "despite what you've heard, you don't have to be an ugly fatso to be a woman in STEM - look, you can be really pretty" is a pretty screwed up message to send, and I feel like that's where a lot of these go.
posted by Frowner at 11:56 AM on August 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


What I was trying to get at was that when I see ads which are intended to signal "women can be in [field]", they virtually always show heteronormatively beautiful women

Why does this particular ad signal "woman can be in the field"? Just because she's a woman who works at this company? Do the other ads with men signal "men (slash-wannabes and not) can be in the field"?
posted by Karaage at 12:03 PM on August 6, 2015


You know what? I really regret my first comment in this thread, because it totally derailed everything. This was the wrong place to comment as I did, regardless of what I think, and I see that I drove the thread off what could have been a much better discussion. I'm going to stop commenting on this one now and I hope that I haven't totally sunk it.
posted by Frowner at 12:09 PM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Frankly, everything about this just makes me roll my eyes. From the idea that a woman's looks should choose her career for her to the fact that this chick is getting shit for "pretending" to be an engineer to the fact that normal, chubby Brenda one cube down didn't get picked even though she is doing the same thing because she represents everything that is wrong about women in STEM to the idea that an extreme introvert would enjoy performing dance and teaching yoga. Fuck this whole thing I'm out.
posted by Foam Pants at 12:13 PM on August 6, 2015 [7 favorites]


People seem to spend an inordinate amount of time criticizing women in STEM for not being [x] enough. Even from an ostensibly feminist perspective. The whole thing is bizarre.
posted by Karaage at 12:18 PM on August 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


I add that "despite what you've heard, you don't have to be an ugly fatso to be a woman in STEM - look, you can be really pretty" is a pretty screwed up message to send, and I feel like that's where a lot of these go.

That's exactly the problem here. An older, non-conventionally presenting, over-weight (pick one, all or any) woman on that poster would not have raised a single eye-brow. Ms. Anchalee is unbelievable largely because she is a she and a visible minority, while also being young and pretty, and therefore looks exactly like something a lookist male patriarch working with an HR diversity officer would come up with.
posted by bonehead at 12:28 PM on August 6, 2015


They picked her. They didn't pick a fat butch woman; they didn't pick a woman with a buzzcut; they didn't pick a forty-year-old.

If you think sexism doesn't apply to any single one of those, you are mistaken and need to read more MeFi gender threads.

/40-year-old engineer-manager woman who is by turns called "butch" and "too feminine". Sometimes in the same day by different people (what am I saying, it's always men).
posted by MarionnetteFilleDeChaussette at 12:35 PM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ms. Anchalee is unbelievable largely because she is a she and a visible minority, while also being young and pretty, and therefore looks exactly like something a lookist male patriarch working with an HR diversity officer would come up with.

Yes, because brown Asian(?) people are such a scarce, never-seen minority in Bay Area internet startups that their appearance in ads is "unbelievable" and would have to be artificially inserted. Also young people in their twenties, never see those in tech ever, no sirree. Yep, that's definitely weirder to see at a startup than a white woman in her forties.

This thread is just a parade of what? to me at this point. Just, what?
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 12:52 PM on August 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I can imagine doubting that ad. She is really pretty, even in #ILookLikeAnEngineer selfie, and in the ad she's placed between a couple of pretty stereotypical looking programmer dudes.

I think it's perfectly fine to hold doubt as a private observation, but when you start actively spewing your opinion in public places, that's when you start sending the message to women that they can't enter STEM fields. Folks need to learn that their observations are not always a) novel, b) wanted, and c) harmless especially in the presence of systematic and cultural power dynamics. Not just about this, but in relation to a lot of stuff.
posted by Conspire at 1:05 PM on August 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


Would it be possible for folks to de-escalate a little bit and maybe consider the idea that expecting pretty women to be stupid and only putting pretty women in ads are both kind of sexist? We don't need to have some big Who Is Getting Patriarched Harder battle over this, really - everything on all sides of this conversation is sexist bullshit, as with most of the double-binds surrounding women in STEM fields, and it will help if we don't accuse each other of supporting terrible rhetoric just for talking about a different sexist aspect of this issue. Everyone who said she couldn't possibly be an engineer is sexist and terrible, and the people who decided they'd only put pretty women in their ads probably did so for sexist terrible reasons as well, not because they were sincerely concerned about the plight of gorgeous people in tech. There is room for both of those arguments to be true.
posted by dialetheia at 1:08 PM on August 6, 2015 [24 favorites]


I think that's where I come down here, Conspire. I completely understand people walking by that ad and going "yeahhhh.....". It looks exactly like what you'd expect a bunch of marketers to come up with. That it, in fact, turns out to be completely true doesn't change that.

Where people become big jerks is when they go online and start ranting about it. I think lots of things that probably aren't stuff I should be putting out in public. Only some of it makes it onto Metafilter.
posted by Justinian at 1:09 PM on August 6, 2015


I think it's perfectly fine to hold doubt as a private observation, but when you start actively spewing your opinion in public places, that's when you start sending the message to women that they can't enter STEM fields.

I don't share your opinion in that as the private too often colours everything else, as unconscious and unacknowledged bias. That it appears to me to be operating in this case and driving much of the outrage here as well.

There is room for both of those arguments to be true.

I think that's exactly what's happening here.
posted by bonehead at 1:12 PM on August 6, 2015


I don't understand how one can be too butch and too femme at the same time?
posted by qcubed at 1:14 PM on August 6, 2015


It's almost as if the people telling her she was too butch or too femme had no acess to an objective measure of gendered performance.
posted by idiopath at 1:17 PM on August 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


qcubed: "I don't understand how one can be too butch and too femme at the same time?"

Seconded. (Would that be a flannel shirt with a lace skirt and having one side of the head shaved and the other flowing locks?)
posted by Samizdata at 1:20 PM on August 6, 2015


I don't understand how one can be too butch and too femme at the same time?

Oh god, I sure do. It's one of the most common and obvious double-binds that women in STEM fields are placed into. I'm supposed to be femme enough to count as a pretty enough woman that I won't be invisible and people won't dislike me for being "standoffish" and "a bitch", but if I'm too femme, then I'm perceived as spending too much time on my appearance or being too "girly" or "emotional". If I go too butch, I'm overly threatening and "probably overcompensating", but if I'm not butch enough, then I'm presumed not to be capable of doing my field work (I work in forest ecology). It sucks on all sides - that's the very nature of a double-bind like this. It sucks for everyone no matter what you do, and it takes a ton of energy to figure out which nuanced expression of being put-together but still competent will work for any given situation.
posted by dialetheia at 1:21 PM on August 6, 2015 [26 favorites]


This feels like "fake geek girls" all over again. If you're a conventionally attractive woman, you get your credentials questioned. If you're not conventionally attractive, nobody cares what you say and mentioning your own invisibility is a distraction from the "real" discussion. You're visible and constantly interrogated, or invisible and told it's the wrong time to ask for visibility. The double bind of the patriarchy, on and on forever.
posted by thetortoise at 1:25 PM on August 6, 2015 [21 favorites]


Oh god, I sure do. It's one of the most common and obvious double-binds that women in STEM fields are placed into. I'm supposed to be femme enough to count as a pretty enough woman that I won't be invisible and people won't dislike me for being "standoffish" and "a bitch", but if I'm too femme, then I'm perceived as spending too much time on my appearance or being too "girly" or "emotional". If I go too butch, I'm overly threatening and "probably overcompensating", but if I'm not butch enough, then I'm presumed not to be capable of doing my field work (I work in forest ecology). It sucks on all sides - that's the very nature of a double-bind like this. It sucks for everyone no matter what you do, and it takes a ton of energy to figure out which nuanced expression of being put-together but still competent will work for any given situation.

Yep I get that. I'm working at getting into Tech and have started to the networking thing. I'm more than aware of the gender issues I could face. I'd be naive not to consider it. The last time I've spent as much time trying to figure out how I'm going to present myself at something like a meet-up was in early high-school. Should I go more this way or more that way. Too feminine or not feminine enough. So much second guessing and stupid angst. How much make-up? Or no make-up. It seems I can't really win with whatever I chose so should just not bother to think about it any more.
posted by Jalliah at 1:34 PM on August 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't understand how one can be too butch and too femme at the same time?

"Femme" enough to be "distracting" and inspire "nice guys" to give you unwanted attention and make your life uncomfortable (which is your fault) and also get teased for any "girly" stuff you do like paint your nails, "butch" enough that people feel comfortable telling you to smile more, that you "look tired" (ie, you're not wearing makeup), to question the fact that you're wearing nail polish (which you're then teased for, naturally), and to ask that you dress more "presentably" when what you wear is a carbon copy of what your male co-workers do.

That was my experience, anyway. In practice, what it's often boiled down to for me is "being to any degree feminine while also obviously sexually unavailable to men".
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 1:39 PM on August 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


We went to the same bootcamp; I sorta know her. I tweeted a link to the thread to her.

Women in the industry aren't treated well. I overheard another woman from the bootcamp got a rejection for, and this is sadly a quote, being too "distractingly pretty."
posted by Pronoiac at 3:14 PM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: We can overthink a pretty face
posted by infini at 3:21 PM on August 6, 2015


Ms. Anchalee is unbelievable largely because she is a she and a visible minority, while also being young and pretty, and therefore looks exactly like something a lookist male patriarch working with an HR diversity officer would come up with.

How about every time you see a portrayal of, um, anything? that is a series of white guys, you think, THAT'S unbelievable. Those authors are really the best authors who submitted books? Those guys are representative of the best people in tech? This panel is really the most expert experts in this field?

THAT is the fake thing. The part where people are stuffing the ballot with white men. Not the part where one single lady engineer shows up on one advert for a tech company one time.
posted by emilyw at 3:26 PM on August 6, 2015 [15 favorites]


Did she have to change her last name because of this? I notice its Wenger in the billboard
She's quoted in the press under her full name, Isis Anchalee Wenger. Her Twitter/Medium accounts just use her first two names, Isis Anchalee. The billboard used just her first and last name, Isis Wenger.
posted by mbrubeck at 9:01 PM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't understand how one can be too butch and too femme at the same time?

If it's a femme day and I show up at a faculty forum and once again try to get people to pay attention to little things like gender neutral bathrooms (#ijustneedtopee) or respecting their students' pronouns, I'm not going to get taken seriously.

If it's a butch or masculine day and I mention my male ex and my now wife, I'm yet another middle aged lesbian cliche (#nowwithbonusbiinvisibility).

If it's a butch or masculine day and I'm feeling pretty good about how I'm presenting and someone tells me "sorry, you're never going to look like a dude, you have too much rack".

If I'm rocking the buzz cut, the dress, the nails, and no one knows what to do with that.
posted by joycehealy at 7:53 PM on August 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


In a Facebook group far far away, we were discussing 'princess camp' for kids, and I was trying to make the point that no, if you don't want someone policing how you do woman, then you don't get to police how someone else does woman - if a kid wants to be a princess, then by gods, part of the whole effing point of gender equality is that people also have the freedom to present as traditionally feminine, even if they're cis (and hey, who knows, some of those femme people - both bio dudes and gals and whomever else - also might enjoy space and cars and football and whatevs, but if they're not, that is okay).

And people came back and said, no, you're wrong, no woman can possibly want to actually wear makeup or do feminine things, it's all the patriarchy. In other words, your feminism doesn't count if you're traditionally feminine and you're a woman.

This is an ostensibly professional group of sociologists. I just want to cry.
posted by joycehealy at 7:58 PM on August 7, 2015


if the implication is they should have picked some other, less pretty female engineer who works for them because Isis Anchalee is too pretty, that's insane and horrible. Seriously, some people are being unbelievably gross in the guise of analysis or criticism and it would be awesome if y'all would stop.

Not my implication at all. There's a vast amount of evidence for the unconscious and conscious preference for physically attractive people in making all sorts of selections, and you haven't provided any evidence for your remarkable certainty that the advertisers and marketers in this case were immune from this. That's all.
posted by oliverburkeman at 4:34 AM on August 8, 2015


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