Pardon my Naivete

Seriously: I apologize for being naive.

Oh wait, you need to know what I’m naive about. Right. I’m naive about women in tech. Apparently very much so as article after article has come across my twitter feed.

 

This may not be your story, but it is my sister’s story. I’m the oldest of six kids from a single-parent home. That parent was my mom. When we were kids, she would often tell us to do similar things. The guys learned to cook and wash clothes. The girls could wield bats and hammers. They weren’t “tomboys”, but girls that used bats and hammers.

We were told to read similar books during the summer. They had their separate things, but in our home, guys and girls were treated as equals. We were told that we could be and do whatever we wanted to be and do by a mom that believed that. While she made it clear that we would have to work a bit harder than some because we were black, it never occurred to me that if my sister wanted to be a programmer or doctor or stay-at-home mom that any of that would be invalid or bad or wrong or even hard as long as they did the work that anyone in tech would need to do.

I am the only person that missed the memo that it was not like this. That leads to naivete on my part.

This news I’m hearing is new to me. My reactions speak volumes: what do you mean that this is an issue with women in tech? I thought all of these situations were covered by “Dear Sir/Madam: Go ye into the world and don’t be an ass.”

It is not.

The issues I read are perpetrated on women and only women and never (or rarely enough to be negligible) happen to guys ever. I really thought we were on the same playing field. I don’t know why people think we aren’t or that we can’t be.

Then I read the articles. I’m even more lost now than I was before I read.

Guys are hated out here from what I can tell. Mind you, I have run into enough people that I know this is definitely not true, but from the reading? I would feel like this:

  • They hate me. For real.
  • They see me as a rapist.
  • They think I am going to speak down to them, even if I’m not speaking, because of their gender.
  • I can’t talk to them the same way I could talk to any other person I respect.

The thing is, when I see a woman, I see my mom (who is getting her third degree, btw) and my sisters (one of whom asked me if she should go into web design or network administration and another that is a marine biologist). Worthy of respect, equally …. well, equally everything.

And before you ask: my family was on food stamps from the time I was born until I was 17. I lived in a housing project (if you know what that is) for 16 years of that in conditions I’m not going to describe. While I do have a college education, that was $80K + in student loans to make that happen.

I guess I still get the male privilege badge if you want to give me that.

I don’t understand. I really don’t.

I don’t even know how to understand because all of the people that can explain are, for reasons that are probably very sensible, angry as hell at me just because of my gender and seemingly without a thought that I’m the person that never even thinks about doing anything disrespectful to any female anywhere.

Even worse, I see women angry at the other women who go “maybe we could go about this a different way”. Who do I go with and who should I listen to? I don’t know how gender equality in any sphere will work if we can’t speak as equals. 

I repeat: equals.

I know that anyone will be resistant to hearing what I have to say, even if I am dead right, if I don’t give them respect. If your response to people expressing that, “hey, you might want to reword some of this” or “Some of this is good, but I don’t agree with this” is met with responses like these, I don’t know how this conversation will happen.

The thing is: I want it to and encourage it in my everyday life. I’m the most “un-fun” guy in my group because of all of this, but that’s a discuss for another time.

If you’re a feminist and want to help me – actually help me – understand, without flaming or trolling or using terms that are too complex for me to grasp, how I can be of help to the community I have come to love over the last decade, please leave me a comment. 

I want to talk to you.

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