Cassandra (sesquipedality) wrote,

A little background

When I was a girl, there was a popular belief that gender differences were entirely due to socialisation. The truth seems to be a little more complex, but the fact that my mother in particular believed this meant that I was brought up to believe I could be whoever I wanted to be, do whatever I wanted to do, and gender just didn't come into that. As a result, it's been one of the unspoken assumptions of my life no-one can say "you can't do tha because you're a girl" or "you can't do that because you're a boy".

I grew up in the era of the first home computers. It never occurred to me that there was something weird about a girl liking playing with computers or liking to program. Hell, most of the people I knew didn't use computers for much other than playing games. Wanting to find out how computers worked was considered weird enough in and of itself.

Fast forward to twenty years later, and if you look at my friends, you'll see that a good two thirds of them are male. Now this certainly isn't because I'm a sex goddess or anything - with some notable exceptions, most men are far too intimidated by me to find me attractive (or more likely I'm just not the type to incite physical lust - whatever).

If the last ten or twelve years has taught me anything, it's that I can't be anything I want to be. Or rather that I don't want to be whatever it is enough to put up with the kind of shit that goes with "fitting in". Where fitting in seems to mean being a compliant little sex object that doesn't show up the 'real' techies too badly. Don't get me wrong, I'm no supergeek - I know plenty of programmers/sysadmins/other techies whose godlike heights of ability I could never aspire too - I'm simply not that focused. But what I have been is a competent tech worker. Unwilling to apply the necessary social grease a lot of the time, yes. Spiky from time to time, yes. Prone to occasional fits of ditzyness, yes. But on the whole, the good has outweighed the bad, which I believe is more than you can say for a lot of human beings on this planet.

But over the last 12 years, since I finished my undergrad degree, I've broken my back trying to live up to other people's unreasonable expectations of me. While I've been doing this, I've watched other people in similar jobs to mine behave like assholes and come off totally unscathed. Now you can argue that there are many reasons for that. Bad luck, personality, whatever. But there's certainly been a major contributing factor. Ostracisation because my "face doesn't fit".

Maintaining the kind of false friendships that a woman who wants to get on in the workplace makes me feel ill. It's not that I can't pretend to be a compliant little thing that gets on with everyone - it's that it makes me feel sick to my stomach. I can't do it and look myself in the mirror afterwards. Now 'poor social skills' if you want to describe them like that, is something that's just accepted as part and parcel of having to deal with male geeks. So how come I don't get the same bye?

It'd be perfectly possible to turn around and say "well, people aren't discriminating against you because you're a woman, they're discriminiting against you because you're *you*." That's true, as far as it goes. But a huge part of me is due to the fact that I'm a woman. Because the sexism isn't explicit, people act as though it doesn't exist.

All I've ever wanted is to do a good job and make people's lives easier. But if people tell you they don't want you often enough, you get the message. I was driven out of academia by it, and I've been driven out of IT by it. I don't want your sympathy though. I want change.
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