A Second Life Backdrop to the Reality of “Why Should We Have To?”

Haveit Neox’s sim ACC Alpha (moderate)

This will be a short (considering the subject) and (therefore) superficial rant. I do just want to look at one tiny aspect of the much bigger issue.

One of the topics my brain insists on pondering, in idle moments, is that of women in technology. If you spend any time on teh internets you encounter the “girls don’t game” and “girls don’t code” mythos. You also witness brutal attacks on social media targeting females who say and do things which contradict those “truisms” and dare to stick their heads up and object to what they see as offensive behaviour. That sucks.

I recently bemoaned the lack of women on the long list of speakers and panel members at a Virtual World Conference (there was 1 out of a total of 44). Philip and Ebbe were asked about the absence of women in the industry (by that 1 on the list) and I assume they misunderstood the question. They both responded by saluting the accomplishments of females in Second Life. The actual question, and the issue, concern the industry as a whole – the programers, architects, designers, developers, executives, visionaries – not the situation inside the virtual world.

Haveit Neox’s sim ACC Alpha (moderate)

The solution, of course, is to get more girls interested and more women active in the profession. However, this is not an easy path. A prevailing culture that reflects a frat-house view of life is not exactly female friendly.

Having said that, one of the most disturbing things I’ve seen in various discussions on the topic has been put forward by some young women. When discussing the difficulties of entering and progressing in tech, having to deal with misogyny, sexual harassment, offensive comments and actions, their attitude is:

Why should we have to? Just get rid of the creeps!

um, let’s talk.

Haveit Neox’s sim ACC Alpha (moderate)

Why should we have to?

Nobody should have to put up with personal and physical attacks. You are entitled to the same treatment as everybody else in any profession you wish to enter.

Now, guess what happens when entitlement meets reality.

Malala Yousafzai is not the first female to have to fight to receive an education you’d expect would be her right. Oxford University actually allowed women to attend lectures beginning in 1870; they could do all the work and take the exams but, until 1920, they didn’t get their degree. Getting into something like medicine was even more difficult.

The academic world’s thinking can be summarized by “Harvard professor Edward H. Clarke (1874) who proclaimed that women seeking advanced education would develop “monstrous brains and puny bodies [and] abnormally weak digestion.

Haveit Neox’s sim ACC Alpha (moderate)

It was also 1920 when women got the right to vote in the United States. Getting it wasn’t easy – campaigners were tortured, killed, and imprisoned.

Try being a firefighter, jet pilot, astronaut, or Head of State today. It’s not exactly smooth sailing.

Tech is a newer profession – that doesn’t mean it’s automatically going to behave like an adult.

Just get rid of the creeps!

Just get rid of them. Well, I appreciate fantasy as much as the next person, but there’s that whole reality thing.

What you seem to be looking for is a hero – somebody who will clear and smooth that path for you. I assume that person will have a sonic screwdriver and magic glitter.

Haveit Neox’s sim ACC Alpha (moderate)

Here’s the thing, creeps never disappear. They remain in every profession, no matter how forward thinking and equitable it appears to be. What happens over time is that they get marginalized and silenced, but they never go away. I think there’s a secret breeding program somewhere. I don’t like to dwell on that because the images are too scary.

The tech industry has some new wrinkles though, as far as creeps are concerned. First they can take advantage of all aspects of social media and its inherent anonymity to launch aggressive and sick campaigns – they can be as base and ugly as they want and giggle about it. This makes what you have to deal with very public and painful.

Second, that whole garage skunkworks mentality just feeds into the boys’ club culture and they never get past puberty. Think of them as Orcs with pimples.

Haveit Neox’s sim ACC Alpha (moderate)

The good news is the third wrinkle – there are a lot of educated, intelligent, men in the industry as well. Many of them speak up.

Don’t look for a hero … find allies.

Look for men and women who will stand up in the middle of an offensive presentation and say “This is unacceptable” before walking out. Writing a blog post later is great, but having the creeps lose face in front of the alpha male they’re hoping to impress, or the woman holding the key to the investment they want, is better. When they lose funding and career opportunities, when their startup fails because of their assholery, they start to change their behaviour.

Look for the people on social media like one current and one ex-Linden I follow who respond to the creeps appropriately.

Haveit Neox’s sim ACC Alpha (moderate)

Why should we have to?

Because you want to be part of the industry. Because you want to help build it, create things, realize the possibilities. Because dealing with creeps comes with the double X chromosome package; like childbirth and PMS.

I’m not saying grow “Rhino Skin” to deal with these issues. Frankly, that would lead to considering the behaviour acceptable. I will say, have a big first aid kit. Report the abuse, mute the creep, slap on a bandage and keep moving forward.

The industry will evolve but, much like all others, the creeps will abide. They will become smaller, fewer, quieter, and easier to ignore.

You have to because the industry needs you. It will be much harder than it should be, but your future granddaughters will thank you.

Haveit Neox’s sim ACC Alpha (moderate)
Advertisements
Leave a comment

13 Comments

  1. You’re expecting a snappy, no-bullshit one-liner from me, aren’t you?

    Okay, okay. I’ve got one on the subject of “I recently bemoaned the lack of women↑ on the long list of speakers and panel members at a Virtual World Conference (there was 1 out of a total of 44).”

    Ready for it? Well, here it comes…

    WHY THE FUCK DIDN’T YOU VOLUNTEER YOURSELF AS A SPEAKER OR A PANELIST?

    You’re good enough, smart enough, and fuck Al Franken.

    Look, you’ve got the history, expertise, and perspective of most of those same-shit-different-conference trained-seals and tuchuslechers combined. Hell, if Hamlet came in two-ply, he still wouldn’t be fit for most VR pundits to wipe their asses with.

    Want to get involved? Then get in the organizers’ faces and get on the list. GET ON THE LIST. And contact those who have the creds and the brash, such as Inara, Grace, Emily Short, Tateru, (holds nose) Pooky, (holds bile) Saffia, and countless others, and get THEM riled up and battering the gates. (Botgirl doesn’t count)

    Want to overcome your Canadian genes and play dirty? Then let’s play it Chicago Style: find out which women were involved in organizing this conference, get in their faces, and tell them “How would you like to help organize an all-women’s conference on these subjects?” and steal them out from under the patriarchy.

    Enough with the blog posts… throw down the pen, pick up the sword, AND FIGHT!

    <3
    -ls/cm

    PS: Love ya, Toots.

    Reply
    • love you too!

      I might have volunteered – if I lived in Silicon Valley, knew about it more than 2 days in advance, and could have even attended. The conference was in the physical world oddly enough.:p

      Reply
  2. Here in the States NPR has had several recent shows on the topic of Women In Tech (and the lack thereof). Readers might want to check out: http://www.npr.org/2013/11/10/244359726/randi-zuckerberg-on-women-in-tech-its-complicated , http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2014/02/06/272646267/how-the-meritocracy-myth-affects-women-in-technology ,http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/06/16/322610424/can-schools-solve-the-tech-industrys-pipeline-problem and http://www.npr.org/2014/03/06/286822313/global-insight-on-drawing-girls-to-tech. I see there is also a Twitter at #nprwit: women in tech . There’s also an interesting piece on Arab women tech entrepreneurs (in the Middle East and North Africa).

    Reply
  3. Thanks for an excellent read, enjoyed the comments too.

    Reply
  4. caramia Mizin

     /  July 20, 2014

    Honor, you have managed to express your views about Women in the Gaming world, so well, I have read a number of articles on this subject over the years. Of course one platform where women are given equal billing ,whilst it is not Gaming, it is about all things of importance, the TED Talks. (ideas worth speaking ) it would be a grand moment for SL subscribers to see some one of your calibre on the TED stage sometime in the future Honor, why not contact them… http://www.ted.com/

    Best wishes,
    caramia

    Reply
  1. A Second Life Backdrop to the Reality of "...
  2. A Second Life Backdrop to the Reality of "Why Should We Have To?" | Second Life Exploring Destinations
  3. Are women lacking in virtual reality industry? | LAVREB

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: