Representation of the world, like the world itself, is the work of men; they describe it from their own point of view, which they confuse with the absolute truth.
– Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, Caroline Criado Perez
This text is written in one of my old notebooks what I never quite filled at the time. It’s from about 10 years ago, and the reason I know this is because I date every entry I ever do in a notebook. It has the same neat handwriting I’m still employing, probably written with a 0.5 Pilot G1 or a 0.5 Muji gel pen which I used to scribble these thoughts down on paper.
Another thing I recognise are the copious notes on post-its that I wrote to prepare for a meeting with HR regarding my “tone of voice”. And to make sure I didn’t aggravate my colleagues. I did anyway, because it turns out I have a problem with my mouth on occasion being disconnected from my brain. This is what I wrote.
“I was told I was too aggressive when I disagreed with NN about (feature X). When I asked what I did or said the response was “It’s not about what you said, but how you said it. NN didn’t appreciate the way you said it.””
An assertive female manager is labeled as a “bitch”, while her male counterpart is described as a “forceful leader”. (Hidden message: Women should be passive and allow men to be the decision makers.)
-Microaggressions and Marginality: Manifestation, Dynamics, and Impact, Derald Wing Sue
Several pages deal with my analysis of the situation. Then, as now, I’m unable to tell if this is something I have brought on myself or if it’s a systematic way to silence me. Maybe there’s truth to both of it.
“When talking to NN, make sure to smile a lot. He doesn’t like it when you don’t smile.”
“Never speak of a decision as being made by NN. Instead frame decision as something that just happened. NN doesn’t like to have his decisions called out if they weren’t successful.”
“Try not to defend (female producer). Just nod and remain neutral. NN doesn’t like it when his actions are called into question. Support in other ways.”
The last one is the one I never managed to stick to.
(…) a man may be happy to extend a certain amount of power to a woman, as long as she does not threaten or challenge him. But if she does, he may engage in misogynistic behaviour to put her in her place, and punish her for having ideas beyond her station.
– Entitled: How Male Privilege Hurts Women, Kate Mann
“Be quiet in meetings, especially if NN is there. NN will only ignore you anyway and then steal your ideas.”
“Don’t bring up anything that could possibly be construed as diversity and inclusion with NN. He’ll only dismiss anything you say after that.”
“Don’t try and steer the conversation away if anyone else brings up sexism. Just don’t talk. They’ll attribute the discussion to you anyway.”
The angry feminist exists by many names and in many forms – including the “killjoy” and, in the era of #GamerGate, the “social justice warrior” – and critics like Sara Ahmed and Barbara Tomlinson recognize it as a figure who interrupts: for Ahmed, the angry feminist is blamed for disrupting community harmony by daring to point out a problem, and for Tomlinson, this is the figure trotted out by opponents to seize control over the scene of an argument and undermine feminist positions before they are laid out.
– Gamer Trouble: Feminist Confrontations in Digital Culture, Amanda Philips
12 years later and I’ve stopped trying to understand what I did wrong. I don’t think I did much wrong, intellectually, except that I was a woman, I had opinions and I expressed them. Emotionally, I feel rejected by the gaming industry. I am really good at what I do, according to all the performance reviews I’ve gotten through the years. And yet, the industry doesn’t want me here. It hurts, because a large part of my identity is in my work and doing my work well. The industry is saying “doesn’t matter how good you are. You’ll never be good enough.”
I’ve had the same conversation over and over and over. Someone doesn’t like the way I express myself. I can’t get a straight answer as to what I said or did, mostly because I probably didn’t say or do anything. As you can probably tell, I’ve been reading a lot of books lately. I do that when I can’t sleep and I can’t sleep when I think of everything I have lost recently.
I’ve tried to stay quiet. I’ve tried to share that I will stay quiet if that’s what’s required of me. But the response is always “no, that’s not what we meant” even though it becomes obvious that that was exactly what was meant. So I’ve worked out strategies. Do not speak until spoken to. Do not offer opinions until asked. Sometimes they work. I mean, they work all the time. I’m the one who messes up by having an opinion and voicing it, despite knowing better. I’m allowed to speak, but only on the terms of the people in power. Be polite. Don’t show emotions (except happiness – women should smile a lot or they’re angry), don’t show that you know stuff. Don’t push. Don’t ask difficult questions. Don’t poke holes. Don’t be smarter than the men in the room. Don’t point to inconsistencies.
There’s more, but just halfway through this list I want to say “okay. You got me. I’ll keep my mouth shut.”
I wish I could return to a time before I read books. Things would be less complicated.