Open Thread: Your beluga best friend

Today’s open thread has been brought to you by your beluga best friend, who says:

I know standing out isn’t always easy. Half my life is spent listening to people go WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT and IT LOOKS LIKE AN ALIEN.

People are rude sometimes, aren’t they? They think I’m strange because they’ve never seen anything that looks like me. But even if I’m unusual, I still exist. And I don’t deserve to be singled out like a giant freak just because I’m a little different. Or a lot different.

The same is true for you, friend. You don’t deserve to be harassed or humiliated for looking or acting or moving differently. You can tell those people, “Hey, shut up,” or “Damn, you guys are jerks,” or you can say nothing, or you can just walk away. But no matter your reaction, always remember that you didn’t deserve it. There’s nothing about how you look that gives anyone the right to harass you. No exceptions.

Love, Your Beluga Best Friend

This is an open thread which means all comments are welcomed here as long as they adhere to our comment policy. There is no such thing as off-topic in this thread. Missed a chance to comment on an older thread? Have a link for our next linkspam? Want to offer to write a guest post? Just want to talk about how awesome it is to have a beluga best friend? This is the place.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , on by .

About terriko

Terri has a PhD in horribleness, assuming we can all agree that web security is kind of horrible. She stopped working on skynet (err, automated program repair and AI) before robots from the future came to kill her and got a job in open source, which at least sounds safer. Now, she gets paid to break things and tell people they're wrong, and maybe help fix things so that people won't agree so readily with the first sentence of this bio in the future. Terri writes/tweets under the name terriko, enjoys making things and mentoring others and has a plain ol' home page at http://terri.toybox.ca.

13 thoughts on “Open Thread: Your beluga best friend

  1. John

    There’s an issue that’s been coming to mind each time I read about fixing the gender disparity in earnings and power. Clearly something is wrong until these disparities have been fixed, but I’ve been finding it more and more noticeable that neither I nor almost anyone I’ve worked with has the slightest amount of increased respect for someone who has more money or more power. In fact, those who strive to be the richest or the most powerful seem to be rather unpleasant or even unclean; the kind of people I feel uncomfortable shaking hands with (unless mentally wearing disposable gloves). And they’re the kind of people who geeks often enjoy subverting.

    So how can we fix such disparities without getting this kind of downside?

    I wonder whether it’s best to regard these, not as something to fix, but as a gauge to read for progress in the underlying problem of a disparity of respect (i.e. a gauge rather than a control)?

    In which case, what should we concentrate on fixing to get women more respected by men? Within the geek community, I suppose [male] respect largely comes from competence, as filtered by forwardness, and there’s a lot of work being done in that area; outside the geek world, I suspect it’s more to do with low-status difficult and dangerous jobs (mostly outside the focus of geek feminism), and that female CEOs won’t be taken equally seriously by men until there are more female firefighters, miners etc; and I think that geekdom is actually ahead of such realms.

    1. Katherine

      It isn’t the money or the power that makes them unpleasant, it’s that a lot of the things you can and/or need to do in today’s society to obtain money/power only appeal to unpleasant people, or it makes people that tend towards the unpleasant side of things more so. For example, it is easier to make money by caring only about your company’s bottom line than about the quality of life of the people working for you. It’s easier to use your power for evil (making yourself more money/power) than for good (fixing systemic issues like the ones that allowed you to rise to power with very little effort on your part).

      To your last paragraph, within the geek community respect is paid to whoever APPEARS most competent. Large swathes of the geek community don’t see women as competent no matter what they’ve done ;)

    2. Mary

      I don’t know that your reaction to money and power can be universalised to geeks in general. Geeks I know who have met any of Mark Shuttleworth, Larry Page or Sergey Brin (there are more geek billionaires, but they’re the only ones I have two or less degrees of social acquaintance with) haven’t disproportionately reported feeling disgusted by them or or superior to them, relative to meeting anyone else nor do I have the impression that they are subject to continual undermining of their authority to a degree greater than that of, say, a middle manager (although I don’t know heaps about the internal operations of Canonical or Google for the record).

      Onto the general point. So… to pick this apart a bit, having more people who you respect in the world is more important to you than pay/power equality for women? This can be problematic because it can have hints of the attitude that women’s moral purity is more important than equal access to power, or alternatively it doesn’t matter if women are powerful if men would respect them properly. This makes women’s work and livelihood indefinitely contingent on continued respect from men.

      It’s certainly possible to argue that there should be much less income and power disparity in general (it’s probably the majority opinion here), but it seems that your position might be that disproportionately depressing women’s power and income is a step to victory in that battle, which I dispute.

      1. John

        Sorry, I’ve not expressed my idea very clearly, and some of it I’ve not thought very clearly, either.

        I don’t know that your reaction to money and power can be universalised to geeks in general. Geeks I know who have met any of Mark Shuttleworth, Larry Page or Sergey Brin (there are more geek billionaires, but they’re the only ones I have two or less degrees of social acquaintance with) haven’t disproportionately reported feeling disgusted by them or or superior to them, relative to meeting anyone else nor do I have the impression that they are subject to continual undermining of their authority to a degree greater than that of, say, a middle manager (although I don’t know heaps about the internal operations of Canonical or Google for the record).

        Yes, I might happen to respect someone who is rich and powerful, but not because they are rich and powerful. Come to think of it, I do know, like, and respect some geek millionaires; I knew them before their big success, and I liked and respected them exactly as much before their financial success as since it. These are people who did well because they had the right idea at the right time, and made a good job of implementing it, and I respect them for that. They’re very different from the people I was thinking of when I wrote my first post on this, who are the ones who feel good about being richer than other people, or who feel good about being in a position of power (i.e. being able to give other people commands, and have the commands carried out under the threat of disciplinary action or job loss). Perhaps I can make it clearest by referring to fictional characters written to satirize those who put power and money first: Gollum, and Gordon Gekko. (There are well-known real life examples too; the kind of people who the Sarbanes-Oxley act is a reaction against. I won’t name them here, in case they want to track me down and sue me once they get out of jail.) What I’m trying to get across is, first, that those who make money and power their primary aims in life are not good role models for anyone, regardless of gender; and secondly, that if you successfully follow such role models, you don’t get widespread respect. In fact, you get so little respect that your country may impose a long jail sentence.

        Onto the general point. So… to pick this apart a bit, having more people who you respect in the world is more important to you than pay/power equality for women? This can be problematic because it can have hints of the attitude that women’s moral purity is more important than equal access to power, or alternatively it doesn’t matter if women are powerful if men would respect them properly. This makes women’s work and livelihood indefinitely contingent on continued respect from men.

        Well, moral purity (ethics) does matter more to me than money and power do (in men and women and anybody else), and I think that’s the case for much of society, which is why we have phrases such as “selling out” (i.e. giving up an ethical position and getting power or money in exchange) and sayings such as “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. But my main point is that if equal power and money for women are treated as the primary endpoint, it may do absolutely nothing for equal respect; it simply doesn’t follow from them. But if we concentrate more on equal respect, equal money and power will follow.

        It’s certainly possible to argue that there should be much less income and power disparity in general (it’s probably the majority opinion here), but it seems that your position might be that disproportionately depressing women’s power and income is a step to victory in that battle, which I dispute.

        It’s very much my opinion that there should be less income and power disparity (and that what power disparity there is should connect with good choices such as dedication to excellence); my position is that focusing on them may not be a step to victory in the larger battle. (In terms of search and optimization theory, they’re “false maxima” or “local maxima”.) Getting women seen as equally competent as men may be harder than getting equal pay, but it seems to be a more solid foundation for the rest of equality.

    3. Restructure!

      Personally, I do not think that respect from men is particularly important. I am currently a low-income female geek, and I am more concerned with earning enough income so that I can live a more healthy lifestyle and freely pursue my intellectual interests. These things costs money.

      While gender may not be the sole reason for my financial circumstances, every little bit of extra money matters.

      Currently, I am also annoyed with the situation where high-earning men use their financial status to take advantage of economically vulnerable women. I am further annoyed when men take the global gender gap in wealth–a product of global gender discrimination–and then end up saying that women innately prefer high-earning men.

      If you have enough class privilege, earning money is just about respect. (If you don’t respect women’s opinion, it might be about only respect from men.) However, for most people in the world, earning money is about survival.

      1. John

        I mentioned “respect from men” because that’s what seems to be so prominently missing.

        I think my post may have been somewhat off-base, as I was thinking more about the kind of people who aim for the maximum excess of income; the situation of those earning not-enough is of course more important than that of those earning more-than-enough.

      2. John

        On further thought, I’ve realized that “equal earnings by gender”, as an aggregate or average, is too loose a definition to be useful; it’s the distribution that counts. Given that, typically, Pareto’s principle (20% of the population hold 80% of the resources), you can affect the total more by getting more women into that 20% than you can by improving the lot of several in the 80% (but not as far as getting them into the 20%); so perhaps a different (or more complex) measure of economic equality is neeeded.

    4. Tony Mechelynck

      A few quotes which may be related to your post:

      «Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.»

      «Stupidity, lying and will-to-power: the three capital sins against Enlightenment.»

      «What one should not try to be is the richest corpse in the graveyard» (This one by the multimillionaire president of Oracle)

  2. Litda

    NO BELUGA YOU’RE NOT UGLY! ;-; I never thought you were ugly at all!

    I feel for every girl who get’s unwanted attention based on their looks, but those jerks win if you let them have their way if you let them. It’s true that you should never let what people say to you on the streets effect you, because you don’t deserve it and never believe anyone who judges you on a five second summary of meeting you!

    I grew up wanting be be invisible because I didn’t want men to harass me in malls and in the street. I only grew confident enough to dress like myself and be myself after years of cosplaying, working a mascot character job and exercising.

    And that was YEARS after and having to develop my own confidence (and I am a PRETTY confident person), geek street cred and two diplomas to dual wield. I’m actually chronically shy and cover it up with a lot of posturing and bravado, it took until this year for me to be comfortable as a feminine woman and to not feel like I was being slutty or weird for wearing the wrong dress.

    And don’t let your female friends pressure you into not eating, it’s not cool. AT ALL! If they keep doing it maybe you should grab tea/coffee or head out to a gallery instead of lunch/dinner.

  3. Restructure!

    Is sexual harassment like bullying?

    For both sexual harassment and bullying, people think you are making a big deal out of nothing and are too sensitive. People also say you should just “ignore it” and they will get bored and stop, and that you must be acting in a way that makes you a target of bullying/sexual harassment. Individual acts look fairly innocent in isolation, but it’s the cumulation of acts that makes it bullying/sexual harassment.

  4. Chebe

    Okay, this is probably too late to get many responses but something has been bugging me, and I don’t know where to find people outside of the situation to talk to. (If you happen to have a couple of links or mailing lists it’d be greatly appreciated.) The situation in question is that of women (typically geeky women) in maker-/hacker-spaces. Increasingly it seems to me to be a microcosm of the world of work, and society in general. Except that it’s voluntary participation, and based on consensus voting. How do you survive? Or better yet, thrive?

    Female participation is very low (diversity in general is a problem), and those that do join leave because communication is so poor (typically irc, or secret deals through people who knew each other previously), and because they don’t feel geeky enough. Which are also reasons why potential members never join. There are also a couple of toxic people who make every female member feel uncomfortable or unsafe, but how are you supposed to handle that when they are usually there? It feels like we’re hanging in there from hope or stubbornness. But eventually both run out. Is it a case of accept it, fight it, or quit? Do you know of any ideas or tactics that have proved useful?

    1. John

      It sounds like “accept it” isn’t much fun, so it’s probably time to start looking at the alternatives, such as forking: setting up an alternative to hackerspace x that is welcoming to both sexes / all genders.

      However, before doing that, if you can, it would be fair to try challenging the present one (e.g. raising the issue at an AGM — would need several attenders primed for support); it won’t look good for them to have someone publicly setting up a friendlier alternative, but they might say “But no-one ever said anything!” and that might rebound on you.

      That might be enough in itself to bring about change; if it isn’t, the threat of being publicly (implicitly) known as discriminatory might be enough; if that isn’t enough, I suspect it’s time to split. I wouldn’t be surprised if quite a few go with you, and you could get in touch with people who you know were potential members but who decided not to join.

Comments are closed.