A woman I know* in a geeky job is going back to work from holiday, and is thus re-dying her hair from pink to something in the ‘natural’ spectrum. There was a discussion about this in the forum where she announced her new dye job, with several people saying that if people have a problem with her hair colour, it’s their problem not hers, and she should be brightly coloured and proud as she chooses.
Sound familiar? Almost like “if someone’s a sexist, that’s their problem!”
My friend then went on to explain that of course it’s not only their problem. In her particular job she has short business interactions with people with a great deal of power over her professionally: representatives of external authorities approving her projects and similar things. She doesn’t feel able to be professionally successful while pushing their boundaries on her gender, on her age (young for the role) and on appropriate business dress and grooming all at the same time, and thus chooses to conform when it comes to the last.
Do you make similar compromises in your own life? Are there boundaries that you don’t have the energy to push on, or feel that you can only make so many challenges to the kyriarchy and the status quo at one time without all the challenges together meaning each individual one won’t be taken seriously? Are there times when as someone who is a geek and a feminist that you’ve let something else that you’d like to be slide, or times when other goals have got in the way of your expression as a geek or a feminist or both?
* This isn’t one of those times when I’m actually talking about myself in the guise of “a friend”. Although it does make me think that as a PhD student I should conduct hair colour experiments while I can.
Thanks for your Ask a Geek Feminist questions. There are many many questions left, and selected questions will be appearing twice a week for quite a while for our commenters to have input into. Here’s the first one:
I’m currently working on an animated short film project with several other people (mostly guys), and I feel on fairly equal footing with everyone else (i.e. just because someone is a “director” or whatnot doesn’t make me feel like I can’t speak my mind). The main character of our short is female.
So here’s the problem.
I fear that the visual design of her character is sexualized. She’s not wearing bikini armor or anything like that, but she’s clearly designed to be particularly sexually attractive. I also feel like the story exploits the stereotype of women being maternal in not-so-sane ways.
I’ve been vocal on both of these points. I fought to keep the character design more down-to-earth. And during development of the story I pointed out things that I felt were problematic (though I was a bit timid on this point because the writer is a woman). And I continue to speak up about these things with the team when it seems reasonably relevant, and I’ve made it clear that I’m not happy about this.
I know I’ve made real impacts here, and particularly the director has said that the things I’ve talked about have really made him start looking at things differently. But I wonder if there’s more that I should do? Or should have done? At this point we can’t change the character design or story, because we’re too far into production, and deadlines are looming fast.
A feminist friend of mine believes really strongly that I should drop out of the project entirely, and is really upset with me for staying on. But dropping out is a really difficult proposition for me for a variety of reasons, including the typical “hurting relationships” and “endangering future employment” reasons. But I would also feel really bad abandoning people working long hours to meet deadlines when the team is so small.
I could really use some outside perspective on this.
How have other people dealt with working on projects where they’ve had feminist concerns about aspects of it but for other reasons haven’t walked away entirely?