Another woman in the industry shared her experiences working at a tech company, yesterday. Reading it was heartbreaking, because no one should have to be propositioned by people with authority over them. No one should have their career held back because they asked for basic workplace protections. No one should be punished for following the rules. No one should have to balance their love of the thing they do with the toxic environment that surrounds it. The real thing that makes me sad, though, is that not one thing that was in the story was something that I hadn’t heard before.
The reaction I’ve seen has been pretty universally supportive, for once, which is a good, if surprising, thing. It’s also extremely frustrating, because this isn’t the first time I’ve heard all these stories. This isn’t the second time, this isn’t the third time, or even the tenth. This harassment, this abuse, is systemic. It isn’t part of working at Uber. It isn’t part of working at software companies. It isn’t part of working at tech companies in general. It’s part of being a woman in the work-force, of being a woman in the world at large.
It’s part of being “non-standard” in a myriad of ways, really. Being non-white, being trans, being unattractive, following a different religion. Every dimension we drift too far off of what is considered “standard” is another strike, another point of vulnerability. It’s so frustrating. It’s so soul-crushing. It’s so huge, so monolithic, so immovable. How do you change something that is so threaded into our very cultural being.
I’m struggling with this feeling of futility, now. People vow to stop using Uber, and I think “what about all the other companies that do this, but the women are too savvy or scared of the repercussions to speak out?” Someone vows to do better, and I think “what power does one man have?” Laws are passed, and all I can think is “What about the people who fight this, because they profit off of the subjugation of those who are different from them?” I wonder how we can possibly get past this.
In my less despairing moments, I realize that I fight this every day, just by existing, and succeeding. By being different. By being a girl, by being bi. By living with disabilities - failing vision, dyslexia, depression, anxiety. By amplifying those who are around me who also fit into any of the myriad categories of “different”. By remembering that Black Lives Matter, that No Wall, No Ban will protect us from our own hatred, that Facts don’t change whether or not you believe in them. That being poor is not a crime. By sharing media that portrays people who are different, and shows that it doesn’t make them scary, or evil. By supporting groups that fight for peoples rights to exist.
And every little bit will help. It has to, because I don’t know what else to do. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Care to take a bite?
A twitter buddy of mine is committing to writing 500 words a day on some topic, and invited others to join her. Feel free to write alongside us, exercise those grammar muscles, and do a little wordsmithing. The hashtag on twitter is #500wordsAbout.