Wearing a Polite and Conciliatory Mask

Edited

I woke this morning at 3:30 and I was determined that at least for the next four days, I was not going to make anyone angry, or hurt, or disappointed. While most of my fellow webloggers from the USA were stuffing themselves on turducken, I was, instead, going to regale my readers with delicious bon mots of wit, poetry, a little bit of technology as enticement, maybe even a tad bit of sex — verbal flashing of my breasts if you will. But I was not, in any circumstances going to engage in battle or respond to any other writing except in a complimentary sense. I was, in effect, going to put on a conciliatory mask, like these Japanese photo masks.

Well, thankfully, a couple of comments and a trackback cured me of such foolishness.

I wrote about Steve Gillmor’s response to Dvorak and the fact that he listed several ‘big time bloggers’, nine to be exact, without once mentioning a women blogger. Gina at misbehaving.net also wrote on this, which made me feel pretty good — my position on issues such as this usually doesn’t land me in a crowd. Donna Wentworth agreed in comments that it was pretty depressing, but I think Meg made the most telling comment:

He doesn’t realize that he just did a good ‘ol boys network thing yet. He’s just a dude writing about his favorite blogs, at least they weren’t all football related.

Football aside, Meg’s comment about the ‘network thing’ again, was dead on. Steve is interested in weblogs by technologists, geeks as it were. But there are weblogs by women who write about geek stuff — why is it that when people rattle a list of tech bloggers off the top of their head, they never mention a women tech blogger?

One comment, was that, Female bloggers can’t or won’t produce content that is interesting to men, which of course was an obvious troll. And yes, I did respond to it — the devil made me do it. The tone was troll, but what about the words — is that it? We don’t produce content that’s interesting to men, at least in technical venues? Or is it because when we are in this venue, we don’t speak the same language as the guys, and therefore are just plain not heard?

Still, this was a virtually anonymous troll and I wasn’t going to respond — that conciliatory mask thing, remember? I was going to be a good little girl and not bore the nice people with writing on this topic, at least for four days. I wasn’t that is, until I got a trackback from Richard this morning, bright and early. Richard wrote a post starting out with:

Okay, it’s getting stupid when you can’t even state a preference for one thing over another without being pecked to death by everyone who disagrees or finds your opinion not good enoug for public consumption.

Richard, what do you think weblogging is? We peck everything to death. If we didn’t, I’d have left this scene years ago out of boredom. If you put your opinion online, especially in a major publication, we are going to be crawling all over that thing like ants at a picnic. What do you think Steve’s response of John, you ignorant slut to Dvorak is?

There was little that Richard wrote I wanted to respond to except for a tiny bit he made in comments, when he wrote:

Of the people he did mention, there is an senior editor for Linux Journal, a person who was part of bringing us Groupware and who helped port Visicalc – the first spreadsheet. The co-inventer of the spreadsheet is there, as is one of the people mentioned in any discussion of the history of the XML spec. These are big time geeks, and people that Steve chooses to read.

If you know of GEEK blogs that are female authored, feel free to send them to Steve – steve_gillmor@ziffdavis.com.

Leaving aside the fact that some of those bigtime names mentioned have been blogging a year or less, Richard’s point about knowing of any GEEK blogs that are female authored, and sending them to Steve Gillmor is ironic considering he made the comment at misbehaving.net with a complete sidebar filled with women associated with technology.

However, he has a good point, and I’m sending a copy of this weblog posting with a link to my various GEEK writings to Mr. Gillmor — just to make sure that he knows that sometimes pocket protectors stick out.

Men have long used oppressive techniques to get women to stop talking, including labeling us shrill, unfeminine, making the word ‘feminist’ into an insult, deriding us when we do talk, and rewarding us when we don’t. They even encourage us to turn against each other, because if women teamed up, truly teamed up, all hell would break lose.

We also add our own problems to the mix. We are brought up to be ‘polite’, never pointing out that a man’s fly is open in the figurative sense. Sheila Lennon wrote about finding out her permalinks had been accidentally put behind a paywall from a comment in JD Lasica’s blog, pointed out by Tom Mangan. I knew this was so from linking to her the week before, but I was too polite to point this out, not wanting to give Sheila a hard time about it. Even between two strong women, the silence of politeness holds sway.

However, the most effective technique for silencing a woman is to not hear her speak — even when she’s shouting in your face. There’s no greater wound to a writer than to have her words bounced against a wall of indifference.

I came so close to shutting down all my technical writing this year. I have been battering at the gates of the tech weblogs and the tech publications for years now and just didn’t seem to be making any dents. Three years of weblogging about technical stuff, twelve books about computer technology, and a couple of dozen articles in major publications, and it seemed like I was standing still in my career. It was so nice to get positive comments on the photographs and the other writing, and I found myself drifting that way more and more. But though I am a writer, and a poetry lover, and a hiker, and a politically active person, and a photographer, I am still a GEEK; I’m not going to be abandon this aspect of myself because I haven’t made an impact. Yet.

And I’m not going to take on a ‘male’ persona to do it, either.

The only way we will make a dent in this world is to talk and keep talking and keep pointing things out and keep breaking into conversations, and disrupting networks, and annoying the guys until they give in from sheer exhaustion, if nothing else. Good stuff, bad stuff, doesn’t matter, as long as we keep talking.

Update

And though Anil doesn’t much like me — I do that to people a lot, it must be my own particular brand of charm and my even tempered nature — I appreciate his good writing, such as this Chicken Story:

Reheating some leftovers this evening, I was wondering why the chicken place seemed so familiar, despite its discomfiting social mores. It is a deeply misogynistic environment, filled with people paying a pittance and begrudging that they weren’t getting more for free, prone to arguing with and shouting at each other in a cacophony of languages while never bothering to even listen to the points they were arguing against. And somehow its allures were enough to keep drawing me back in. I’m realizing they probably should have named the restaurant after the place it most resembles: The Blogosphere.”

Maybe that’s what we women need more of — chicken.

Second Update

Seems that Dave Winer has checked into comments at misbehaving.net with:

Karlin, I consider you a friend, I’ve pointed to you many times, because you often have something to say and are professional about it. I don’t worry that I’m going to regret having pointed to you. I don’t point to Shelley because she’s very abusive of me, on a personal level, and I don’t want to, in any way, support that. And for the rest who are posting here, I honestly am not familliar with their work. If you want to start a blog to highlight the work of women technologists, I’d subscribe, and when something interesting pops up, I’d happily point to it. But if you use it as a place to bash men, I’ll unsusbscribe immediately. There’s already plenty of that in the world, I don’t need more.

So, imho, you’re wrong if you think it’s sexism, with Shelley and a few others (who are men, btw), it’s fear that keeps this blogger from pointing. Otherwise I just don’t know of any women technologists doing interesting stuff in weblogs. Hopefully you’ll take that at face value and won’t go somewhere personal with it. But if you do, there’s the demo of why you aren’t getting anywhere.

I didn’t want to respond to this in misbehaving.net’s comments — I guess I’m the kiss of death when it comes to dialog. But what Dave is doing here is using the carrot and stick I talked about earlier: do what I say, and I’ll link to you; start up with that ‘male bashing’ stuff and you’ll displease me and I’ll never link to you and you’ll stay obscure. This goes back to the conversations I’ve had about some A-Listers using the power of their link to control and manipulate the flow of information within our communities.

I’ve long decided that a link from Dave comes with too high a price tag. However, I consider his statement about not linking to people who are personally abusing rather quaint considering how much he’s linked to Mark Pilgrim lately, and I think we can all agree that whatever I’ve said or done about Dave, Mark’s beat me.

No this is a perfect example of the environment that Anil described in the Chicken Story — the men may argue among themselves and be abusive, but if a woman intrudes, even politely, the intrusion is never forgiven.

This wall of silence is what I referred to earlier and is the number one weapon to use against women who speak out in weblogging. Hell with that — it’s the number one weapon used against women who speak out, period.

And what’s sadder is that this wall is supported by women as much as men.

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