The Tipping Point and Every Day Sexism

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How to start this, without attempting to explain the history of the Woman Diminished? A tipping point in the non-conversation has been reached, I think. Women are saying “enough.” No more being nice about this.

One of the things I say a lot among my female colleagues when I’m talking about the challenges I face as a woman in tech, a woman in writing, a woman of politics goes like this: “He can’t hear the girl talking.” There’s always not just one, but a few, and they’re teaching all the other men to do the same.

I’m done with excuses about the differences in communication…that one gets trotted out with the subtext of “Why can’t A woman be More Like a man? If only we women learned to talk like a man, why THEN they’d pay attention!


When I say “every day Sexism” I mean it’s every fucking day. I mean it’s just not that hard to pay attention to what the hell is being said, time after time, day after day in this non-conversation about the subject of women. So, what brought this on?

It’s Time to Start Listening to the Girl Talking

Let’s start at the top and work our way down. Today, Ann Aguirre posted this. She writes amazing SF (among other things). In this post, she’s blunt about her experiences as a writer at SF-related conferences (cons). Go read that.

April 29, I wrote this post in which I pointed out an example of why women are underrepresented at tech cons.

Here’s the thing where if you’re a guy, you need to listen: This is not a one-off. It’s every day. All the time. Unrelenting. It’s EVERYTHING that men used to view as at one point their sole domain. And every time you don’t say anything when your male friends trot out this bullshit, your silence is part of the problem. Women have been saying this for years, centuries, and since all those men who can’t hear the girl talking continue to need their minds opened, guys who aren’t creeps and jackasses need to tell those men that it’s not OK. In private and in public.

My Quiet Dignity is on indefinite Hiatus

This is a pretty good overview of the recent SFWA incident that has pushed women writers to the tipping point. Women should be like Barbie, these male writers said. They should behave with quiet dignity.

Translation: Shut up when the real writers are talking.

This was not a one-off event. In the SFWA bulletin, three straight issues trotted out more of the same old every single day of our lives bullshit about women as objects and the pernicious belief that anything a woman has to say needs to be said by a guy before it’s important. We should sit there like Barbie, unable to speak.

At least SFWA has a response, I’ll give them that.

If you’re thinking we’re overreacting to one incident, you’re wrong. This was just what feels a lot like the last straw. Take a look at current header of this blog “One of that damned mob of scribbling women.” That was in response to V.S. Naipul’s dismissal of writing by women as unimportant and inferior. Nothing has changed since then.

When people, even important people, come up with BS like that, ALL of us need to lean over and say, “Dude, that is NOT cool.”

There’s backlash and then there’s backlash

Take a look at Ann’s post. Take a look at the hate mail she got as a result of that post.

One male commenter said this:

This is a great post and I’m shocked to hear how you were treated.

I am totally glad he gets that this was not right, but why is he shocked? Believe me, not one single woman writer who’s ever attended a con would be shocked.

And then later, another man urges Ann not to be afraid to speak up. Again, I am glad that he, too, understands this is not right. But what rock is he living under that he doesn’t know about what happens to women who speak out?

What happened to Anita Sarkeesian wasn’t remarkable for the content of what men were saying to her and acting out against her, it was remarkable only in scope. It’s happened to other women. Kathy Sierra, for example. Men succeeded in silencing one of the most cogent, insightful tech blogs out there.

Get Sober. Now

Today, I had a conversation with a friend of mine and, as it happened, we were talking about the challenges women face and I said more or less this:

Think of a classroom full of 30 kindergarten girls. Statistics say 18 of those 30 girls will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime.

In what world does anyone think that’s OK?

The answer is: This one.

We keep blaming the girls and not saying much of anything about the perpetrators and the culture that lets this happen and continues to punish women for the behavior of men.

Flip it. Flip it Good

Let’s flip that around. If you’re a guy, think about all your friends. The statistics say that one of them is a serial rapist of the women you know in common. Not just women you don’t know. Women you both know. And you’ve been silent when he jokes about date rape. You haven’t leaned over and said, “Dude, not cool” when he jokingly says there are circumstances when it’s OK to hit your wife or your girlfriend.

No more silence.

There were a lot of women joking about Quiet Dignity, Barbie, and Ken but the frustration was palpable. Why haven’t we moved past this? Why haven’t we reached the point where words like that are appalling and men of good character not only don’t believe it and don’t think it’s funny but they also don’t give it a pass?

And how about we ALL stop being silent?


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One Response to “The Tipping Point and Every Day Sexism”

  1. Anna says:

    I read Ann Aguirre’s post and left her a message. I’ve only been to one local con and it was interesting, but not the experience Ann had. It does seem Sci-fi people are a different breek (with some fans seeming a little strange).

    Anyway, thanks for sharing! I’ll try to attend some sci-fi cons and be vocal when necessary. :o)