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Being a Woman

I was starting to pull together the Friday Blog Roundup, and I was going to share a non-IF post there but decided midway through the paragraph that the post needed to be pulled out to stand on its own.

Because it’s that important.

Emily Short’s Interactive Storytelling has a post that has affected me deeply.  It starts out about the game Her Story but don’t be turned off by her promise of spoilers.  Yes, there are spoilers, but they’re pretty weak ones if you aren’t deep into the game yet.  And you can skip ALL the spoilers if you jump 10 paragraphs down to the paragraph that begins, “So what truth did I see in all this? I think: the social mutability of self, which is something that everyone inevitably experiences.”

At that point, this post veers far away from Her Story into the most astute capturing of what it means to be a woman in certain situations.

I read it… and sobbed.  Because it felt so immediately true.  Because it put into words something I’ve experienced.  Because it put into words something I’m grappling with right now.  Because it is about being female in the work place and female at school and female on the Metro.  Because even if you’re not a gamer, you will recognize the scenario she describes in some other context.

She writes, “And it’s also hard not to wonder, what am I doing wrong here? Women get told a lot – maybe men do too? – that people will treat you the way you let them treat you.”

It was a post I not only needed to read, but it came to me at the perfect time.  Perhaps you will feel the same way about it, too.

It doesn’t offer a perfect solution.  But somehow, reading someone else’s experience and thinking “me too,” was enough for this morning.


1 Lindz { 07.09.15 at 11:23 am }

As a Professor (of potential Students in her story), it made me want to make that post required reading. I have discussions every year with my students about implicit bias, privilege and micro aggressions. It’s sometimes hard for the guys in the class to recognize these situations and figure out how to deal with it. And the girls in the class are too close to the situations (sometimes) to be able to express how it makes them feel in a way that the guys can understand. I think this post does both. 🙂

2 Karen (River Run Dry) { 07.09.15 at 2:41 pm }

Oh, man, so much in here.

But really, I want to point out one paragraph. THIS. “I feel like what I wear has to be: not too sloppy, not too formal, not prudish, not sexy, not cutesy, not uptight; not so business-professional as to seem clueless about gamer culture, but also not carrying game-related brands or slogans because then there’s the whole “fake geek girl” thing to contend with. Neither denying nor emphasizing femininity. Not looking like I want to attract anyone, while still obeying some of the demands of the male gaze because you will get backlash for sure if you genuinely disregard that. Also, ideally, hitting these requirements while looking like I didn’t spend much thought or money on the problem, because caring about clothes is feminine-marked in a negative way and not very gamer-y. Some people have solutions to this other than mine, of course. Very colorful outfits, striped tights and whimsical hats, work for some women, but I’m on the far side of 35 and I would feel foolish dressing like that. I don’t have the body type to pull off androgynous, or the personality for unusual costumes, much though I sometimes appreciate other people’s. Me, I’m just trying to minimize vulnerability to the standard modes of attack. I plan outfits like it’s tower defense. I still lose a lot of levels. ”

This encapsulates PERFECTLY the web of stressors for women. Do everything. Do it perfectly. But do NOT, under any circumstances, make it seem like you’re working hard at it.

Frankly, the way I’ve managed how I relate to people in the business world over the past 15 years is to act more like a man, to focus on tasks and business items and stay FAR away from personal discussion. It was so hard when I was pregnant with Owen, then, because I had to draw attention to something that was fully feminine, and I really struggled with it.

I’m not sure what the answer is either. I love that she’s posting about it, though.

3 torthuil { 07.09.15 at 3:28 pm }

“I don’t think all this is about discovering how to be fake or how to deceive people, but how to be myself in a way that other people will best connect with, and that will draw the least negative feedback. ” This sentence makes me sad. Not so much the “how to be myself in a way that other people will best connect with” – because that is one of the key points of style, and style can be a lot of fun (at least I think so). But the part about how being yourself can draw negative feedback. That reminds me of the cultural habit of making a sport out of bringing people down. It’s sad and shallow and wrong. I don’t think the solution is in changing the kind of clothes you wear (although retailers will try to make that case!) The solution is in everyone, men and women of all ages being DECENT HUMAN BEINGS. Sigh. Also her story about being accosted on the metro made me cringe, because I’ve been in that situation (who hasn’t, at some point or other). Super uncomfortable! I once sat for a long time (it felt that way) listening to some jerk’s tirade because I had no idea how to make him shut up (I guess I could have tried “shut up” but (especially as a woman?) you don’t know how a stranger will react to that or if other people on the train will actually come to your assistance if he gets aggressive. (I did say “I don’t want to hear about that” at one point and he did stop talking about it, but just went on to another ranty topic). But again I really doubt that wearing different clothes would have made any difference here. Possibly having a different attitude. When I lived in Athens I was constantly accosted, and I learned to have a “perpetual bitch” attitude to keep people off. But it was exhausting because that’s not who I am. I don’t see men as the enemy; I don’t want to act that way!

4 Valery Valentina { 07.09.15 at 4:21 pm }

Tangentially related: I left my job, couldn’t get along with the new boss, he couldn’t deal with my higher than his education. Now that I’m gone he is pulling my friend down. Reading this I’m starting to believe that the combo of uni-degree-with-vagina is what is doing us in.

5 Queenie { 07.09.15 at 7:53 pm }

Great piece. Terrible piece. Totally relatable. I am equal parts “play the role,” “relate like a man”, and “fuck that” when dealing with all that she describes, depending on both my mood and the situation. It’s totally about inherent bias.

And no, no one tells men that they will be treated how they let others treat them.

One of my great moments of clarity on this came in a meeting with two men. One was my colleague, and the other worked for us but not for the same company. I had been directing the work of the other man from the outside company–politely, professionally–and he had caused a huge stink with my bosses, saying that I was treating him badly. In this particular meeting, he had no done what I had asked, and my male colleague let him have it. He absolutely screamed at him, very unprofessionally, I might add. And he just took it, without a word. And then he did what he’d been asked to do. He wasn’t going to respect the request from me–that I knew what I was talking about, that what I wanted was necessary. And he wasn’t going to take orders from a women. That’s when I fully realized how much men respect other men just for being men, and how men can get away saying things to other men in a way that would never fly from a woman.

6 Mali { 07.09.15 at 8:52 pm }

Oh yes, this isn’t just a “women in gaming” post. It’s a brilliant post that got me thinking of so many examples over my career – in diplomacy, and business, and on boards of directors. Argh! And yet the fact the author of the article worries that it is her fault, that somehow she is doing something wrong to make the Student (or whoever) make these assumptions about her, is such a female reaction. I’ve done that too.

These days, I’m much more likely to stand up for myself. But it’s hard. Even when I was Chairperson of a company, I still occasionally had to endure the other men on the Board ignoring my comments until one of them repeated what I’d just said. I’m now suffering from the “woman over 50” invisibility issue, on top of all these other issues. Occasionally I’ve heard women (the odd, very successful women, who have achieved despite this sexism, not because it isn’t there) commenting that the glass ceiling is gone. Clearly they sneaked through a gap in the ceiling, because the rest of us keep hitting our heads against it, and getting beaten up or pushed aside on our way towards the ceiling.

7 fifi { 07.10.15 at 9:13 am }

Great article. This made me think about that “don’t say just” article from a few weeks back, and why it annoyed me. The author did an oh-so-scientific study of 2 people and drew the conclusion that the woman’s speech was “wrong” and “child-like”, and that women now need to micromanage their speech even more than they do. Isn’t it just (oops) as possible that men are being impolite and arrogant in their speech, and that women’s typical speech is better at building bridges at getting things done. No, of course not.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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