Over the weekend, there was a tweet announcing that Google was going to provide “scholarships” to qualified women to attend JSConf.eu. There was then a tweet by another person calling this “disgusting” and “illegal.” Nicole Sullivan has a level-headed and well-articulated roundup of the back-and-forth and some of the surrounding issues, and I suggest you read it.
You know what’s disgusting? Being groped at a conference after-party by a drunk married man. Opening your hotel door to discover said drunk married man stumbling down the hall, asking himself into your room, and literally having to slam the door in his face. Having a video of you posted on the internet, suggesting that you were engaged in a sexual act with the yayQuery logo. Seeing someone ask, publicly, on Twitter, if anyone knows the name of the hot conference chick. That, dear reader, is disgusting.
I adore my male friends in the tech community. They have encouraged and supported me and welcomed me into their inner circles. But even they can act like 12-year-old boys sometimes, and while I don’t begrudge them that, it is hard, because it’s at those moments that I realize how much I am not them, how much I long to have more than the barest assembly of female peers who have any idea what this is like. And then I remember: those peers I long for will have to put up with so much shit to be in that cool kid’s club, and you know what? If Google wants to pay them a measly few hundred bucks to put up with it, maybe that’s OK. Hell, maybe they ought to pay them more. Perhaps, as ham-handed and questionably productive as the scholarships may be, it’s only fair to pay women to look the other way when some asshole treats them like a thing instead of a person.
I am angry. I have been angry since Saturday, when this all started. I have spent the last year trying to be the thing that I want to see: the woman on stage. I have formed groups to encourage other women to do the same. I have reached out to women who show potential and tried to give them the encouraging nudge they need that no one really gave me. And right this very moment, I feel incredibly selfish. This weekend reminded me what I am asking those women to enter into: a world that presents no tangible barriers, but that will objectify them every step of the way. And if these women have the guts – well, let’s be community-appropriate here – if they have the balls to speak up and say that it is hard to be a woman in this field, that it takes a thick skin and determination and a willingness to be one of the boys even when that’s the last thing in the world they want to do, then they should brace for a chorus of men to rise and tell them they are wrong.
Men, guys, boys: I am not asking you to give up Star Wars and The Matrix. I’m not even asking you to give up gratuitous phallic references and #twss jokes, though I hope we’re all grown-up enough to know that there’s a time and a place. And you know what? If you want to DM your friend about trying to hook up with that hot conference chick, well, good luck with that. We’re all human. But for the love of all that is good: this being a woman in your world thing, it’s not easy, OK? Maybe you can’t understand it, and I even believe it when you say you don’t mean it. But when you deny it, you just look like an ass.