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What's with the name?

Allow us to explain.

#thatwoman, A Hashtag About the Difficulties of Speaking Up About Gender Politics in the Tech Industry



Yesterday, Kotaku published a piece by Rachel Edidin that went by the title ”She Was Harassed By A Games Reporter. Now She’s Speaking Out.” While it was structured around telling the story of Alice Mercier (not her real name) a female member of the video games industry who recently anonymously publicized her sexually harassment on Facebook by a male peer, the piece also focused on how infuriatingly, personally familiar Mercier’s story is to many women working in video games and the wider tech industry. Even so, despite the the entire article clearly laying out the reasons why women find it socially difficult and professionally dangerous to speak up about sexist behavior in the tech industry, it left lots of people asking why all of these ladies didn’t “shut him down,” “complain to HR,” or “go public.”

Folks banded together with the #thatwoman hashtag to point out that one of the reasons is that pushing back against harassment or biased treatment, no matter how clear a case, can and even tends to follow and negatively affect the victim just as much as the accused. Nobody wants to become that woman.

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  • SuperFubar

    I think anyone losing control of their emotions in the wrong setting is sad.

  • The Bechtloff

    For a while now feminists and social justice crusaders in the geekdom have gone on misadnric witch hunts on guys for things as simple as making a dirty joke, the whole Adria Richards debacle being a prime example. Now there is finally a backlash against it. This hashtag is proof that the backlash is working.
    You shouldn’t be #thatwoman ladies. Because you’re hurting your own gender. No one wants to be around people who are just waiting, just itching to get offended at something.

  • Anonymous

    It’s weird how much I expect the typical “that’s *her* interpretation” comments when it comes to widely published stories, but not on my own personal FB feed.

    A friend of mine shared a news story about men’s privilege to publicly comment or own women’s bodies (via entirely unsolicited expression of preferences). The first comment was one of her friends sharing a story where she experienced exactly this, with a man she had just met.

    The second was another friend saying, well, women have preferences about men’s bodies too, so maybe “a cigar is just a cigar.”

    Notwithstanding the fact that infamous quote is actually not clearly attributed, it was so frustrating to see how dismissive even friends can be of each other. Even if it were not true that there’s an institutional bias against women in terms of value placed on certain body parts, I can’t understand how a person can devalue another person’s hurtful experience like that.

  • http://anna.balasi.com/ AnnaB

    Friends? Try family. That hurts 10x more.

  • Charlie

    Do people make racist jokes in professional settings without consequences?

  • Charlie

    A certain family member refers to any woman who disagrees with him or annoys at work as a ‘dyke’. I call him out on it and he laughs at me and tells me I’ll never get anywhere in life if I don’t stay quiet.

  • Owen Allen

    “No one wants to be around people who are just waiting, just itching to get offended at something.”

    Dude, you read this blog so that you can get offended by things. You’re talking about yourself.

  • Haleigh Yonish

    Not to mention those 62 million people who identify as feminist (taking into account the 259 million people in the US who believe women should be social, political, and economic equals who are, despite not identifying as feminist, supporting feminist ideas) are people you’re going to, you know, run into now and then. It’s not really a niche idea reserved for “misandric witch hunts.”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/16/feminism-poll_n_3094917.html

    This trending hashtag is cool, Susana. Awesome post.

  • Anonymous

    Ugh, yes. I can imagine.

  • Anonymous

    No disrespect to your family, but… fuck him. Family sexism is the absolute worst. I had to deal with being gaslighted and body-shamed as a kid by my brother. He had a baby recently. Guess what gender? I sincerely hope for the sake of my niece he gets over his shit.

  • Anonymous

    These types of stories remind me that sexism is still thriving in lots of work places, even if I’m not personally affected by it. I’ve been very lucky to land many jobs where my bosses and co-workers were no nonsense women and did not tolerate this kind of behavior. Don’t let anyone invalidate your experiences. And don’t invalidate anyone elses. Just because it didn’t happen to you, doesn’t mean that person didn’t go through it.

  • Charlie

    I find it kind of terrifying that you think this, the treatment of women who speak up, is a ‘backlash’ to something recent and not just how women have been treated for centuries.
    I don’t often call people stupid but I’m finding it really hard not to use that label in your case.

  • Lien

    You know… i sometimes wonder too what’s the point in general. I mean these stories constantly get reported left and right. Not saying that now that it is more open then in the past, things are getting worst. No no no! Things like that shows that it’s getting better, before they didn’t even have a voice.

    I mean what’s the point of going into an industry that thinks things like that is normal? or that people think “it’s to be expected” without giving a second thoughts as to how offensive this is. Can’t i work for a media industry and not feel like a space alien when i speak out?

  • Charlie

    Reminds me of this wonderful parody http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LS37SNYjg8w

  • Lien

    My brother admitted to me that he avoids me hanging out with his friends because i once spoke out against one of his others friend sexist remark of a random girl on the street.
    I know he is doing this so things won’t get awkward between me and him. But it still feels like he’s taking his side over me.

    Family hurts, people. They hurt a lot.

  • Anonymous

    You lost me at “misandric”….into fits of mirthless laughter.

  • http://adornyourhearts.tumblr.com Xomyx

    I’m pansexual, once I started dating my current beau my sister told me how glad she is that I finally discovered cock is better :/

  • http://adornyourhearts.tumblr.com Xomyx

    I know what point you’re trying to make, but yeah, all the time :x

  • Anonymous

    Been outright blamed by my father for being harassed by complete strangers, being sexually assaulted, and not stopping my own rape. He also tells me I need to learn to be “nicer” if I want to get anywhere. (“Nice” meaning quiet, submissive, and perfectly willing to allow myself to be walked all over. Apparently he never met my mother during the 21 years they were married).

  • Anonymous

    And that right there is why I’ve never come out to my family. I’ve never had a girlfriend who’s lasted more than a couple of months, so it never seemed like my mental health was worth it.

  • Charlie

    I constantly get told ‘not to argue’ by male friends and that men find me intimidating. It makes me fearful to speak my own mind and I think well if they want me to be someone else then I doubt I want to go out with them. Am I supposed to keep the pretense up for the rest of my life or what?

  • Charlie

    Ugh I’m sorry to hear that, it seems like she doesn’t understand and it’s a really insensitive thing to say.

  • Lien

    I know you hear this a lot but remember, it gets better. No matter how hard it feels right now. *hug*

  • Benjamin Meis

    Most of these tweets I agree with; with the exceptions, most notably, of the first and second.

    “Friend interviewed @ a startup, they gave her a lowball offer, she negotiated, CEO wrote back saying he was “personally offended”"
    Not enough info (because tweets are tiny) that this was a gender thing. May have just been a weird startup (a lot of startups have weird hiring hoops to jump through, like making you stand up to the boss, because they think it makes them seem edgy or something).

    “i sometimes worry that my opinionated outbursts come across as hysterical or emotional. would i if i were a man?”
    In answer to the question here, yup. The key word here is outbursts. If you’re having outbursts, man or woman, you’re gonna come across as emotional and probably annoying. If you can’t express your opinion in a calm and dignified manner (man or woman), then maybe shut up until you can. Note: the exception to this is that there are a few select situations in which outbursts are appropriate, however, the tweet implied that these outbursts are a regular thing, which is how I applied my response.

  • http://twitter.com/amydieg Beastbrarian

    While you could be correct in either scenario, I think it misses the point of the exercise. The #thatwoman tag is not just about the hard facts of each situation. It is about the way women are forced to walk on eggshells for fear of being branded this way. In the first situation, even if gender wasn’t a factor in the CEO’s reaction (which seems unlikely since women are regularly expected to take lower starting salaries than men) the world tells the woman she needs to check her behavior – that it was likely HER fault for being “that woman.”

    And while I agree that in most fair and healthy workplace genuine outbursts from anyone would be frowned upon, it is unfortunately not always the case. But even when generally frowned upon, a man having an outburst is more likely to be brushed – “he’s a hot-headed guy, he needed to blow off steam, he’s stressed, he’s passionate about this issue” etc. – whereas a woman is likely to be branded “that woman” that gets over emotional. A man is unlikely to be branded as “emotional,” a term that eliminates intellect as a contributing factor.

    “#thatwoman” is about the fear women in these industries and workplaces have to deal with. Its an artificial label created by misogynist culture to silence women by fear and invalidation, no matter the validity of the offense.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    I have no opinion to add or story to tell, I just thought I would stop in to say (if there was any doubt or question) that this thread is wonderful and you’re all wonderful for participating in it.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Do I open up this can of worms? Argh. I shouldn’t. I have things to do. SIGH. Alright, fine. Would you mind elaborating?

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Being a great big fat hypocrite, I always appreciate it when hypocrisy is pointed out.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Yeah, it’s not about “facts”. What are you, some kinda leftist nutball?

  • http://twitter.com/amydieg Beastbrarian

    I’m saying that it isn’t about picking apart every individual situation and interaction. Its about an overall culture that tries (and often succeeds) to shame women into silence and the fact that many, many women feel the effect of that, regardless of their particular situation.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    I don’t think generalizations are the way to a very copacetic future.

  • Rebecca Hernandez Gerber

    My family said my abuse by my boyfriends was my fault because I talk back to much. They’ve told me to abandon graduate school b/c I’m not home enough for my husband. They tell me to sit down and shut up, b/c loud, bossy women never get anywhere. I used to let it pass. Lately, I’ve taken to telling them that if they do it again, they’re cut out of my life. If they laugh, I do. FUCK ‘EM. Family is the people that love you, and without respect there is no love.

  • Rebecca Hernandez Gerber

    The point is getting to join an industry and work on something i love. There is no way that a bunch of assclowns will stop me from preserving video games. I’ve been raped, grabbed, harrassed, intimidated, and I’m not going anywhere. If I left the industry, those bastards win, and like fuck am I letting them win. Hell, when things get bad, I sometimes wonder if I’m still here out of spite.

  • http://twitter.com/amydieg Beastbrarian

    Recognizing trends in society and culture and the way they affect large numbers of people is not always generalization.

    The woman in the first example, for instance. Perhaps that interaction WAS just a weird hiring tactic. This does not change the fact that the woman who interviewed lives in a world that has taught her to respond to such situations with concerns that she is “misbehaving” as a woman. And to so quickly question the validity of her experience (which she is in an infinitely better position to judge and describe than either of us) just furthers the “that woman” idea that she is simply blowing it out of proportion, reading things into it, or hunting down an opportunity to be offended.

  • Charlie

    I think if that particular individual felt the situation was a ‘don’t be that woman’ problem and they felt the need to chime in on this discussion it’s likely that it was.
    Telling people what happened to them and that their experience isn’t relevant is kind of part of the problem no?
    It’s lucky we always have guys that know nothing about us to set us straight!

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    “Recognizing trends in society and culture and the way they affect large numbers of people is not always generalization.”

    I’m pretty sure that saying a thing isn’t what it is doesn’t make it not so.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    I’m note sure what you’re chiming in for or against. I’ll recap to explain why I’m unsure.

    I chaffed at the notion that facts weren’t as important or weren’t the point of the exercise, since I think facts are much more important than assumptions, exhibitions, generalizations, all of which tend to discount the truth from an individual situation in favor of a broader meaning or read that may or may not apply (whereas, facts, being facts, always apply).

    Then I was told that recognizing trends and how they affect large numbers of people isn’t, in fact, generalization. I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what that is but I am often wrong.

    In response to your specific comment, could be that you’re right. I don’t know. I’m not really arguing about that because I don’t disagree, exactly, though it’s kind of amusing that you would assume someone you didn’t know is telling the truth because they feel the need to chime in, but someone else is lying or wrong or arguing from a place of animosity because of assumptions you’re making about them due to whatever characteristics you feel I share with a larger generalized body. Unless that last sentence wasn’t directed at me, in which case, again, I’m wrong. I often am.

  • Charlie

    It was more directed at the OP not you. I agree that facts are important but like I said if they felt the need to chime in then clearly something about that situation made them feel that their gender was a factor.
    I messed up a job interview once where I asked what benefits the job would have for me (like I had been told to do by a uni councillor) and the guy looked like I’d threatened to shoot his family. I’ve never attributed that to gender just that perhaps I’d worded it the wrong way or that the guy interviewing me had never heard of such a thing. If that lady felt that her gender had been an issue then it’s likely that it was.

  • http://twitter.com/amydieg Beastbrarian

    Alright, I suppose what I mean is that it doesn’t always deserve the negative connotation that word brings.

    What would you suggest, then, to address or discuss patterns of treatment pervasive through society? Or are we meant only to react to and address each individual situation in the world, one at a time, without ever drawing conclusions about what they mean/how the relate to the larger culture?

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    In a perfect world, the latter.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    I apologize for jumping to conclusions. I’m not sure if I have less faith in people than you do or, because the possibility was raised, I’m more inclined to withhold trust without further information since, yes, I agree, those two examples listed above pale in comparison with the others.

    I once got a job by carrying a five pound stapler to the interview because I wasn’t sure if I should staple the resume and I wanted to ask. That was the specific detail that my manager recalled about my candidacy. To this day, I still wonder if she gave me the job because she just wanted my heavy duty stapler. You don’t always know. But sometimes, yeah, it’s blatantly obvious. So…I’m not actually going to argue that one or the other is a liar. It could be. The other examples are just a heckuva lot more YES than EH to me.

    In the other example, though, the “hysterical woman” stereotype, that’s some obvious societal-seeding. Although, by the same logic you put toward the CEO example, if she thinks there’s a problem…maybe there is one. Personally, I know that I can be a fussy, selfish, baby, I can get flustered, and I can whine, and I’ve done them in sequence and at similar moments often enough to recognize my own patterns of bullshit. Not that I do much to curb them. Not that they need to curbed or that I could if I wanted to (but maybe I could). But I know well enough that I’m being an ass when I’m being an ass. I’m just too much of an ass to stop myself.

  • http://twitter.com/amydieg Beastbrarian

    That seems, quite frankly, like a completely ineffective and impossible approach.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Also, in this perfect world, chocolate shakes cause rapid weight loss and it’s impossible to be thrown from a horse. And horses can fly. If they have wings. If they don’t, they can’t, that’s too silly.

  • http://twitter.com/amydieg Beastbrarian

    Well we don’t live in that world, so I’m not exactly sure what you want from, well, anyone.

  • Ender1200

    The kind of scum that sexually harass fellow employees is the kind of scum who would lie about having connections with HR to avoid being reported.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    For starters, I’d like to see baby steps taken in that direction, or for someone to come along and just make the world better. I’m far too lazy and ineffectual to do it myself. Until then, I guess I want people to consider that, hey, maybe generalizing and stereotyping and segregating and assuming aren’t good things, no matter who they’re done to or for what purpose. Granted, it takes a greater altruism than I’m capable of. I’m maybe the biggest hypocrite that ever lived and I deserve a medal for my modesty. So, I guess, I just hope for reason.

  • Charlie

    ‘Opinionated outbursts’ is a bit of a loose description. It could mean that she loses her temper and whines but it could also refer to say discussing how modern superhero films treat female characters and going on a rant about it to your friends. That video I posted of the Harry Enfield parody is a good example. The woman voices her opinion and disagrees with the men and everyone acts like she’s suggested they all eat babies.
    I have a feeling that lady was referring to that type of situation rather than having a temper tantrum.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    That’s kinda how it sounded to me, too.

  • Anonymous

    Not your friends! There are much better people (men as well as women) to give your time to.

  • Charlie

    I think ignoring trends can do more harm than good. Sexism and Racism are sometimes only obvious when looked at overall. For example, hiring trends for white men vs black women. One woman not getting hired is fine right? When there’s a huge disparity overall then clearly something is amiss.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    I agree that trends are worth paying attention to but they’ve become the apex of discourse, which I think is a mistake.

  • Charlie

    It might be more to do with the fact we are expected to extrapolate a situation from 140 characters.
    The ‘overall trend’ of women saying ‘Hey, so this is bullshit’ is pretty much the central theme we can take away from it.

  • http://twitter.com/amydieg Beastbrarian

    I think we are at an ideological impasse, then. There are themes, ideologies, and socially created structures that deeply affect the way all of us interact with one another and we need to address them. Dissecting them into only individual occurrences deprives them of power and validity. It also does nothing to help the silent victims, and slows progress to a crawl. It requires gatekeepers – a position primarily held by white men, with white women not far behind – to declare if and when people’s experiences and feelings are valid.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    I agree.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    I would think that an individual approach wouldn’t leave “silent victims” apart, whereas they might not have their particular issue addressed by a mob.

    Dissecting is an interesting word. It’s very close to disemboweling.

  • Anonymous

    Well, I know a lack of empathy certainly isn’t the way.

  • Lien

    I admire your courage but i can’t be that brave. I hate forcing myself to have a thick skin. I’m actually really shy and nice in real life.

    Still, you are right. If i ever am in a job ‘d love with a passion like yours and something like the subject happened, I’d never leave cause i hate to see the people who are wrong win! But it’s still scary being #thatwoman…

  • Rebecca Hernandez Gerber

    I don’t think I’m brave. I’m scared shitless this will keep happening, and I go home some nights crying. Should I be blessed with a daughter, I’m beyond terrified of what to tell her. Do I do what my dad did and shelter her from the sexism, tell her it doesn’t exist? Or do I tell her the truth and scare her away? It’s hard. it’s just, I don’t want to be defined by what’s been done TO me anymore. I want to be defined by what I DO. It’s the only weapon in my arsenal to take back my agency. That’s all.

  • “M”

    “Dissecting them into only individual occurrences deprives them of power and validity. “

    Something tells me that’s exactly what this Charpentier dude is trying to do … even though he’s one of those who would never admit it and instead is trying to nitpick the pattern to death with a fount of pseudo-intellectual (and unsupported) “assertions” and faulty logic.

    #ThatGuy

  • Anonymous

    I’m largely okay at the moment. I’m in a LTR with a man who I am out to and who is supportive and loving. Once we move into our own apartment, I intend to come out to my mother, at least. I just need a safe space of my own where I’m a little less dependent on her before I do so.

  • Anonymous

    My family and coworkers say the same thing. I figure that just makes them weak. If someone speaking their mind and being logical and informed frightens them, especially if it’s because they are female-bodied, then I see no reason to hold them in anything but scorn and disdain. All they’ve proven is that they are small and obsolete.

  • Not Impressed

    Adam is a well known troll on this website. I’m not saying nobody should respond to his privileged nonsense, but he has gone out of his way to prove himself incapable of understanding any experience outside of his own quaint little microcosm. If your goal is trying to help him understand why he’s wrong, you’re wasting your time. He’s just here to derail.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    I completely agree.