Silence is Complicit. I'll Speak Up Now.

Jessie Frazelle of Docker engineering fame wrote This Industry is Fucked a few days ago. Read it now if you haven’t. Her experience - and as far as I can tell the experience of most women in technology - is revolting, shocking, disgusting, all of those things.

I share all of the positive sentiments expressed by people in response to her tweet: Jessie’s an important engineer working on important things that I use every day; she tweets funny and important things (I found i3wm from her and it made computers fun again, but that’s another post…); she gives awesome talks. So yeah: fuck the haters, keep your head up, you’re awesome - I agree.

Fuck the Haters. But Wait, There’s More…

But no one should have to grin and bear this shit, so it has to change. And “it has to change” is a hollow, abstract rallying cry. So here’s something concrete that I commit to do from now on:

If I overhear you making sexist, misogynist statements to/with your buddies at a conference, I’m calling you out on the spot. Doesn’t matter if you think I’m not listening or if we don’t know each other or we’re 15 feet apart in the hallway. If my neurons have to process your garbage, game on. I’ll do my best to calmly explain why what you said is wrong, and I hope you’ll be contrite and apologize. If not, I’ve probably already seen your badge and know your name, and I’ll let the conference organizers know what you said. Even if you do apologize, I may tell on you because fuck that is why, I’m done being complicit.

Relevant Backstory

I failed at this just a few weeks ago at DockerCon. I was sitting at the bar in the conference hotel working through e-mail, and two guys a few seats down with attendee badges on were mocking the MomOps in DevOps talk that was scheduled for later that day: they ridiculed it, laughed at it, made jokes about working mothers. It made me viscerally upset, but I did nothing. I’m pretty sure they even gave me a sideways glance and determined I was safe: big bearded white guy, we’re clear. I felt too angry to be constructive, but I also questioned my place intruding in their conversation. I was complicit then - and I have been in the past - in the culture that breeds the monsters that torment women in our industry. Never again.

What You Should Do

Do that thing I wrote a few paragraphs up. Don’t be complicit, don’t be a safe harbor. Call people out on the spot. Shine a big bright light every chance you get. Do other things, too. Find something concrete that you can contribute and let’s get to work on cleaning up the mess in our industry.