Are we really doing this again? I just tried to register (as a speaker) for an upcoming tech conference. One that prides itself on its woman-friendliness, no less: they have an anti-harassment policy, a track devoted to women in the field, and photos of women on the front page of their website.
The registration form asked me what sized t-shirt I’d like, and offered only straight-cut shirts: the kind that are often sold as “unisex” but, in fact, only fit people who have approximately the same chest, waist, and hip measurements — a group disproportionately made up of men.
So, with a sigh, I left the t-shirt field blank and submitted the form, only to receive an error message. I wasn’t allowed to register without taking an ill-fitting t-shirt that I didn’t want. I’m told this was a bug with the registration system, and has now been fixed so that you can opt out of the t-shirt altogether, but I’m saddened by the whole process and it’s making me reconsider whether I want to attend this conference at all.
Event t-shirts are something that stress me out EVERY SINGLE TIME. Endless indignities and insults. Every time I go somewhere, I have to go through a process that reminds me that I’m different and don’t fit in, because I have a female body.
It goes something like this:
What sized t-shirt do you want? Oh, no, we don’t have fitted/women’s sizes. These are unisex! They fit everyone! As long as you like wearing a tent that chafes and chokes you, and why wouldn’t you? THEY FIT EVERYONE.
We have girl’s sizes! They’re designed for actual pre-pubescent girls, but they’re nice and stretchy! They’ll show off your breasts REALLY WELL. Oh, and the logo we’ve printed across them will just serve to make the guys stare even harder. You won’t find that distracting at all when you’re trying to concentrate on the conference, will you?
Your breasts aren’t that big. Let me just look at them a bit and assess them. Hmmm. Mmmm. Yup, pretty sure you can wear a unisex tshirt. I, man, have spoken!
Are you sure? Please provide me with your measurements. Because that’s not creepy or undignified at all. While you’re at it, we’d like your mother’s maiden name and social security number.
Well, you can take a men’s shirt and wear it to sleep in! Because everyone wants to sleep in big ugly t-shirts, and needs dozens of them just for that purpose. Anyway, why would women want to wear a t-shirt AT THE CONFERENCE where they could actually, you know, be part of the in-group and feel like they belonged?
Staff must wear the shirt. You’re working the registration desk, staffing a booth on the expo floor, or giving a talk, and we want you to have our logo emblazoned across your chest. Obviously feeling comfortable and self-confident, being well groomed, and giving a good impression to others, are less important than that.
Group photo time! Let’s get everyone in their t-shirt! What do you mean you don’t have one, or don’t want to wear it? Why aren’t you participating? You obviously don’t want to be part of our community. Here, borrow one, and SMILE! Now everyone can mock you online for how ugly you look.
Oh look, it’s a newbie. She doesn’t even have a geeky t-shirt to fit in with the in crowd. She’s probably here with her boyfriend. (If she were wearing a shirt from that great conference five years ago, we might have at least thought twice before assuming that.)
I’m fucking sick of this. Don’t tell me you “worked hard” to get fitted t-shirts when you didn’t look at more than one supplier, or ask people who might know anything about it (for instance: other conferences that managed to supply fitted t-shirts, local women-in-tech groups, this very blog.) The Geek Feminism Wiki has a page full of t-shirt related tips and recommended suppliers for starters. THERE IS NO EXCUSE.