Accused of “looking like a dude”

It’s 6 am. The gym I have been going to for four years is full of regulars, except two new men. I see them eye me as I walk past. I know where this is going.

I know because I’ve been here before. New guys. Macho fellas who come for a week or two, then fizzle out. It’s not the chest-beating place they were looking for.

The gym I use is a recreation center for the community. There are pools, a gymnasium with an elevated track, exercise rooms, and a fitness area. The fitness area has cardio machines, weight machines, and a long mirror and racks of dumbbells and weight benches.

This morning I walk up the stairs to the fitness area, and the two new bros are alone in front of the long mirror. I walk past them to put my gear on the shelf. I hit the track to do my warm up.

All through my workout, I see them out of the corner of my eye, always in my peripheral. Finally, around 6:45 I see them head for the stairs. They’re walking between the row of benches and cardio machines, then one breaks off and veers my direction. My back is to him when he walks past and says:

“Aren’t you afraid of looking like a dude?”

I am startled by this, and appalled, but remember his comment has more to do with him than me. But, no, I’m not “afraid of looking like a dude.”

I mean, I’m fierce at 5 feet 3. I’m 131 with 12.5 inch biceps and 22 inch thighs. I get it. I’m a whole lotta awesome. He was intimidated by a strong woman. Maybe if he would have been nice, I could have introduced him to the morning crowd, or shown him a thing or two. But he made his choice.

What worries me most about his comment is people think this kind of crap each day, and either act on it or don’t. It’s this kind of thinking that perpetuates the “like a girl” perception of women and sports. It’s what makes some women not want to weight train for fear of bulking up. It’s what makes girls quit sports. It’s what keeps women from feeling comfortable at the gym.

Let me tell you, I look great and I feel great. As you can see above, strong is beautiful. Don’t let any person stop you. You do you. They are not worth it.

Sticks and Stones and the Internet

A couple weeks ago Chris and I went on a drive in our new car. The kids were with Grandma and we just enjoyed the journey. During our drive we discussed many things, including an upcoming project of mine that will make me more visible online.

Chris argued that by putting myself out there in any way and by simply being a woman, I am opening myself up to the unfortunate side of the Internet. He hates this side of the Internet, totally thinks I shouldn’t let this stop me, but just wanted to warn me. I told him I wasn’t worried because my focus isn’t anything, even seemingly, controversial. He replied, “It doesn’t matter. They don’t care. It’s just because you’re a woman. And smart. They hate that.”

I don’t get why people feel justified in harassing other people, on or off the Internet. It just doesn’t make sense.

Well, he’s right.

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By just having thoughts in my head, I’m controversial.

This underlying and sometimes blatant hatred of women just because they’re women and smart is…well, I just cannot put it into words. I honestly cannot comprehend any possible reason for such a stupid perspective. Why would someone hate anyone for being smart? Having opinions? Or even just existing?

You want to know what else bothers me? This thought that what happens online isn’t real. Last week I read an amazing article that expresses what is real and constant for many women in our society.

John Oliver breaks down the reality for women on the Internet with a little bit of humor.

For god’s sake, you’d think the way the people are lashing out at these women, they were axe murderers or even Hitler himself.

What happens online doesn’t stay online. This harassment affects our every day lives. By continuing to dismiss and accept these crimes against women, the oppressive power will persist on the Internet just as it has in society for thousands of years.

The Cloak of Invisibility Allows Gender-Based Violence

You can be an asshole on the Internet, but why?

On Monday I began listening to Invisibilia’s most recent episode, Our Computers, Ourselves and finished it yesterday afternoon.

The second half of the show strongly resonated in my mind. As the story goes, this commuter train rider was tired of rude commuters so he started a Twitter account where he’d post pictures of the infractions in attempt to shame rude people on the train. His crowd shaming efforts soon turned shameful. Not only did he post pictures of rude behavior, but he began being rude himself – the worst was posting a picture of a woman with terrible acne scarring and making a snide remark. When word about this Twitter account got out, his followers skyrocketed.

I’m sure there are other situations like this. Person is a jerk. People are fascinated by the tragedy. Jerk gets an audience.

Why are we as society so fascinated with the negative?

Why is it ok to say these things on the Internet?

The Internet is full of trolls. (See: This American Life “If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, SAY IT IN ALL CAPS”) I theorize the troll to person ratio is 4:1. They will troll on anyone for any unconceivable reason. Even worse than the trolls are completely heinous dungeon dwellers. These individuals find it completely acceptable to threaten women, often with vicious, violent acts.

Gender-based violence is nothing new. There are still people in society who will say such comments or threats to a woman’s face, but the cloak of invisibility people feel the Internet provides seems to turn down the volume on the super-ego and unleash the unbridled id.

Unfortunately it seems to take a rally cry, hash tagging and a bunch of blogging to hold social media venues accountable for reacting to gender-based violence. For now, most offenses still receive boiler plate responses that include phrases like:

Just like when we are interacting in a public space we may overhear conversations that are offensive…

This same platform chirped further about how users can find such content “frustrating”. Yes, being told to “go get raped” or “get raped with a broken bottle” is totally frustrating, just like this rush hour traffic.

It is never ok to suggest or threaten violence against anyone. This plague of gender-based violence is open for everyone to see and affect. The best cure for a bully is an ally. Stand up and be an ally against gender-based violence. Don’t give the assholes an audience, report their heinous behavior, and their soapbox will cave in.

Challenging the -isms

The -isms are never easy to talk about. They can be hurtful and embody so much history. Recently with the Ferguson event exposing continued racism in the region, St. Louis County issuing marriage licenses to all individuals, and attacks on women and feminism in various forms, Chris and I wanted to be sure to provide Kari with as much information as possible – and on an 8 year-old appropriate scale regarding feminism, heterosexism, and racism.

Over the past few months, feminism has been firmly on my mind with Senator McCaskill’s investigation into campus sexual assault (and frankly, every one could guess campuses were not honestly reporting incidents) and Gamergate.

More applicable to Kari right now is the topic of Gamergate. She loves video games, and has since a young age. She is certainly not going to ever give up games. She also loved going to PAX in 2013.

Will this change to more inclusive gaming continue, or will there be a divide? Is there a place for women in tech that will not have to be hard fought and never truly won?

Let’s start with a quote from Anita Sarkeesian:

One of the most radical things you can do is to actually believe women when they talk about their experiences.

Why is it when women report assault or harassment the first thought is skepticism?

Threats to women in tech are not new. Take the 2007 discussion prompted by the threats to Kathy Sierra. She is not the first and will not be the last woman to take a hiatus from the Internet and popular culture due to harassment and death threats. Why is this behavior ok? It’s not, but it is accepted. Why?

Going back to Gamergate, this disagreement about what gamers should be erupted into a division between those for women’s rights and those against. After nearly a month of heated debate, right after Kori was born in September, Chris stopped talking to his good friend of 15 years.  This hurt him terribly. No, not because of the loss so much, but because something so integral to him was ignored. Feminism is such an important part of who my husband is to disavow that part of him is to overlook so much of what makes him amazing. It’s part of his identity. Being married to such a strong, smart woman (uh-hum) and raising 2 daughters, women’s rights are very important to him. However, women’s rights would be equally as important to him if he were raising 2 sons as he would want to make sure they were just in the world.

On a sidenote: I am so proud he was on the list of users Gamergaters Twitter blacklisted. He’s just too equality and social justice for them. I think he’s rather proud of that too.

So many people in the industry are just like Chris. They are standing up for equal rights and uniting against the harassment of women. But there are the others too. There is no reason why anyone should be permitted to threaten another person or diminish their person.

This morning I made the comment that I am glad we are not going to PAX in the next couple years. Chris said he would love to go and challenge the issues. I guess I just think that part of my world is sacred. Video games are my immersive experience and I don’t want the neckbeards to pervade that too.

Interestingly enough, still many people do not think the issues of feminism are valid. Some comment that feminism was created by ugly, angry women and that women should enjoy sexually-charged attention. That particular individual was commenting on the video below.

Unfortunately, the “hello” in this video was not simply a chipper greeting. This is a challenge many women face on the daily: unsolicited sexual advances. Respond, you’re into them. Don’t respond, and you’re a bitch.

My favorite encounter to date (2003):
Guy: Girl, you got kids?
J: No.
Guy: You want some?
J: Not with you.
Guy: Damn, girl. Ain’t nobody gonna marry your bitch ass.

Where was this conversation? Frankly, it doesn’t matter. Another argument many have tried is that women are inviting these advances because of where they go, what they wear, or by not doing more to stop the advances – see comments here (I know, don’t ever read the comments, but what do I do? I read the comments.)

Women should not have to be mindful of their attire, career choice, opinions, etc. to avoid sexual harassment, death threats or other exploitation. Women should receive support and action when situations like these are reported.

I want my girls to feel more like a Samus than a Peach and be embraced by the world for being so.

I’ll leave you with Computer Engineer Barbie, which still has Kari laughing.

K: Hey mom, I still remember that story about that Barbie who needed help doing tech things.
J: Yeah?
K: It was pretty dumb. The guys needing to help her. (she laughs)
J: Yeah, you don’t need anyone to write your code for you, do you?
K: Nope.