one of the most toxically sexist environments i’ve ever worked in was at a sketchy laptop refurbishing company. most of the employees and the owners as well were just kind of locked into these patterns and it was incredibly difficult to get anyone to a point where they could recognize anything wrong with their actions. for a quick laundry list of the kind of talk that went on there we would have
- employees (and the owners) staring out the window and making comments on objective appearances of women walking down the street and how much they would enjoy having sex with them
- employees would sit and talk about movie stars and rate them in order of how much they would like to have sex with (or conversely how disgusting and how much they did not want to have sex with them)
- employees would refer to women as ‘redheads’, ‘blondes’, ‘bitches’, ‘cunts’, and like literally anything other than as fellow humans
- one employee (one who would regularly refer to random women as ‘bitches’ if they made him angry) once said something along the lines of 'women who can fix computers are marvelouslly special and wonderful creatures who we should treasure and respect above all others".
lots more than this but i feel like this kind of sums up the atmosphere.
at one point the owner was out on the floor and bemoaned “i dont understand why we can’t keep any female employees for more than a week or so here”. I responded by “im totally not surprised by that at all” and then listed off just a handful of the same shit i listed right above there. I said: “yalls treat women as tho they belong to a different species and are just basically objects and it seems like literally no one here has had a friendship with a woman other than that of someone you are related to or someone you want to fuck. Its incredibly alienating to be treated like your not a human 99 percent of the time, no one wants to be otherized and objectified in that way even 1 percent of the time.” No one really had much to say in response to this in the room itself, I just went and punched my time card and left the building after that. One of the other employees followed me out (an older man, they had worked as computer programmer for the navy in the 70s in punch card days and also had been invited to get a tour of Kowloon Walled City by one of their triad friends way back in the day) and was like “right on, thats the spirit. Women are special and it is our responsibility as men to protect them” and I just basically said nothing to that, smoked a cigarette and felt depressed.
The thing is, I didn’t hate anyone at that place (not to say i did not find it incredibly aggravating at times). These people were not monsters, they were not evil, they were just products of their society, and to an extreme degree fairly representational of how men in tech seem to think of women: as some overlapping venn diagram categories of ‘object’, ‘relation’, and/or ‘someone who i might want to fuck’. But never as ‘a fellow human who I can relate to’. This seems like a huge fucking tragedy for everyone involved. They literally could not befriend, have an open conversation with, or relate to 50 percent of the entire fucking world. Sexism hurts everyone in a society, while it more obviously and harshly harms women in our society it also turns men who are sexist into emotional cripples potentially filled with alternating lust and rage towards people who they have very little possiblity of ever being able to have honest communication with.
this was a mildly extreme situation but I’ve seen various versions of this behavior literally everywhere ive had interactions with in western society. It ends up being highly coached and more passive aggressive and loaded with code words and whatnot in supposedly more ‘liberal’ music/punk/DIY/creative tech zones but its very rarely not present in some form.
I don’t think this is a hopeless situation by any means and I’m sure its far better now than it was in like the 1950s or whatever but thats no reason to say “ok women can vote and go to college now sexism is done we won!” Its not pleasant or fun but there are some things that men can do that might be able to help slightly and most likely wont actively hurt anyone. One is to look at oneself and try to examine in what ways culture, media, and upbringing has led one into any kind of though processes, speech behaviors, and actions that reinforce instead of actively combat the idea that ‘men’ and ‘women’ are essentially seperate species and then doing whatever possible to eradicate them. The other is to figure out ways to communicate to people who speak and act in ways that reinforce sexism about just how hurtful and damaging their behavior is. I understand the urges to just shout “you are a fucking horrible monster” and then go and cancel them from ones social group but I don’t think this is necessarily the most productive approach at all times. (sometimes it definitely is though) I feel that anyone has the ability to change and overcome the negative conditioning that their society imposes upon them and it is important to try and give people an opportunity to change. No one is a monster just because of societal conditioning. But if someone is well aware of how societal conditioning has negatively affected them and the people they interact with and they refuse to make any effort to change then yeah they are kind of an asshole.
Because of some combination of a somewhat non standard upbringing that involved a definite lack of interaction with american media and value systems along with what seems to be a definite non standard brain wiring in terms of how emotional and social information gets processed I’ve never in my memories identified as being a man or as being masculine at all. Neither do i identify as a woman or as any bucketed gender construct, its more like I can abstractly understand why some people enjoy identifying as socially constructed genders but it seems to have very little relevance to how i behave and operate. Every time someone calls me ‘dude’, ‘man’, ‘bro’ etc its makes me cringe inside a bit and reinforces my constant low level alienation but i’m also like not exactly in the mood to lecture 1000 randos on instagram on a weekly basis either. I’m positive that this is only a tiny fraction of how frustrated people identified as women get with the kind of language that is tossed around without thinking.
I’m bringing up the ideas of genderized language and gender identities because of one tiny request I have for literally everyone who reads this: Please make an effort to remove all genderized langauge in your interactions with others. It reflects assumptions you have no business making, it reinforces negative stereotypes, it otherizes and exludes people, and i’m not exactly sure what the benefits are. People have pointed out to me that as trans folks they often would 100 percent prefer to have proper genderized langauge directed at them. My response is usually that "i would like to try to help decondition sexist thought from western society. I understand where you are coming from and this is a totally valid exception but it seems easier to have and make these kind of exceptions once the ground is levelled and people aren’t just by default projecting genders willy nilly all over the place. Starting from a default of ‘they/them’ feels more useful in the grand scheme than starting from the default of EVERYONE IS EITHER A HE OR A SHE AND THATS WHATS UP BRO’. but i’m open to discussion on this point if anyone is super pissed at what i’m saying!