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Some Thoughts About Harassment

aliens see no evil hear no evil speak no evil
Credit: Flickr / Aaron Logan

I don’t like to talk about the online harassment I experience, not least out of guilt, because I seem to get off lightly.

The past couple of weeks though, have been hard. There were two lists, and my name was on the short one. People I know, and like, were exclaiming “lol I’m on this list” and I was privately messaging people to say, not lol. Be careful. It got to me.

And then we have the 25th anniversary of the École Polytechnique. It hits close to home, following that, and Canada, where I lived for years. Where I felt safe. In part because of the after-effects of such an event.

Then I’ve noticed a slight uptick in the kind of… snide comments. A little extra mansplaining. They’re not harassment, but they are not exactly nice either. If everything I said online got such a response, no doubt it would really start to get to me.

I am not, in general, a fearful person. People have sometimes described me as brave, (or stupid!). I have travelled all over the world, sometimes alone, sometimes to countries that are not popular tourist destinations. I have been at times physically intrepid, particularly when attached to a pair of skis.

But there are some things I have come to find anxiety inducing.

I have come to be wary of most nerdy boys, and fearful of some.

I am panicky faced with the prospect of sitting next to a strange man on an overnight flight.

I am afraid of online harassment going offline, and the likelihood it being a woman I know, a woman who I am friends with, or would like to be.

All of these things, have very real impact on my life. When I decided to leave my tech job I worried about normal things – could I get another one, if I wanted? The prospect of failure. The general misogyny of the tech industry and it being no better elsewhere. And I worried about getting harassed more, what I would do if it stepped up.

It did, once I removed the name of my former employee from my twitter profile. But it is still manageable. I am still lucky.

So I still write code (although of late I manage to avoid nerdy boys), I still fly, I still speak my mind,

I brace myself, though, before I hit tweet, before I hit “schedule” on a blogpost (and after, frankly). Whenever I get some extra attention. I wonder, is this going to be the time when they come after me?

So far, so lucky.

There is no winning. I have little empathy for the men (and women) who seek to perpetuate a culture of misogyny, but they subjugate and constrain themselves. For me, silencing myself is, at least right now, not the way I choose to lose.

It’s nearly 2015… didn’t we all think, that we would be doing better than this?


9 replies on “Some Thoughts About Harassment”

Cate, your blog has such a great and honest pulse on issues definitively plaguing women in the tech industry. I so appreciate your perspective, and please know that you are impacting women who are ready to take on the BS that has been previously propagated!


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