Career life WISE women in computer science

And then, Nothing

credit: muse of nothing / deviantart
credit: muse of nothing / deviantart

This guy came on too strong to me, I think he thought it was passionate but I just felt uncomfortable. So I actually physically pushed him away from me.

Being a Nice Bloke, he was upset that he had violated my boundaries. And so, I comforted him.

This is one of those scenarios that I look at, and think, illustrates so much of how we are socialised as woman. Socialised to put our needs second, and so we feel bad when we enforce them. Socialised to find it a complement when a man is attracted to us, however inappropriate it may be.

And I feel for the guys in this, I do – because what is sexy when a woman is attracted to them, is creepy when she isn’t. This socialisation hurts men too. I wouldn’t find it sexy to have every move prefixed with “and are you comfortable if I do [X]”, but I definitely do not find it sexy to feel my personal boundaries steamrollered over, either.

There’s been a lot of stuff on Twitter lately about women reporting men who behave inappropriately. I particularly liked this post – no details of the event are included, it’s just a how to. But I’ll give away the ending, she reported something, to the company and the conference organisers, and then… Nothing.

The thing is, there are a lot of something’s that look like nothing. When you have to report someone for inappropriate behaviour, it’s likely you are going to stay well away from them. So if:

  • They realize their behaviour is inappropriate and seek professional help.
  • They continue on with it and eventually get written up a second time, which might result in some actual action.
  • Other women hear what happened and take care to stay away, resulting in no more complaints.

It looks a lot like… nothing.

And that’s really hard – I know when I have reported things, it’s been scary. To put myself out there and say I am not OK with this, and then… Nothing. I try to be brave and do it anyway, just in case a something-that-looks-like-nothing comes as a result, and I want to sincerely thank every women who stands up and does the same, but I’ll never judge a woman unwilling to put herself through that. Ever.

It’s always scary to put your feelings out into the unknown and not know what will happen. It’s scary to say “Not OK”, for the same reasons it’s scary to say “I want more”, “I love you” first, or “I still miss you” – things that potentially have positive outcomes.

In case you do, and then… Nothing.

And that’s why it’s hard to report things. Because there is no good outcome, but one of the worst – and most common – is when you do, and it seems like nothing happens… it’s like being violated all over again. I hate to think about how the weirdo on the plane touched me, but I hate more to think about how he approached me in the airport, after I had made my feelings, and my boundaries – via the police abundantly clear. Him walking towards me? That is what it looks like when you say, “this is not OK”, and then… Nothing.


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